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Report Claims Doctors Involved with Torture at U.S. Military Prisons

Update Date: Nov 05, 2013 10:50 AM EST
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A new report published this past Monday claims that the United States government was responsible for instructing doctors, nurses and psychologists to forget medical ethics and partake in the torture and abuse of prisoners in military prisons throughout the world. The report, which was written by authors from a 19-member task force, used public information to conclude that these medical professionals helped with the interrogation process of detainees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba's Guantánamo Bay post 9/11.

The authors of the report used information gather from two years of research and review. The team examined public information that came from multiple sources, which included government documents, news reports and professional journals that provided books and articles.

"What we found was that the department of defense and the CIA actually changed core ethical standards to facilitate participation by health professionals in the abuse of detainees. And those distortions still exists," said co-author, Leonard Rubenstein, reported by BBC News.

According to the report, detainees who were abused reported being force-fed by doctors during their hunger strikes. The doctors had forcefully pushed down feeding tubes through the noses and down throats. Despite how painful this practice is, force-feeding has been considered necessary in order to prevent detainees from committing suicide. The report also found that doctors ignored cries for help and did not report any of the abuse that was taking place.

"One [example] is the use of physicians to force-feed detainees and using very coercive restraint chairs in a way that violates the ethical standards of the World Medical Association and American medical groups," said Rubenstein, Senior Scholar at the Center for Human Rights and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Another is participation in interrogations where health professionals search for vulnerabilities which interrogators can exploit."

The report also stated that military personal enlisted the help of medical professional during abusive interrogations to make sure that the torture was not causing any permanent harm. The report claimed that medical professionals with the CIA were present during waterboarding in the case of an emergency. The report stated that not only were doctors present to care for the abused detainees, psychologists were used to help interrogate and break down detainees.

The CIA spokesman, Dean Boyd, said according to the New York Times via email, "It's important to underscore that the C.I.A. does not have any detainees in its custody and President Obama terminated the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program by executive order in 2009. The agency is proud of its medical staff, who uphold the highest standards of their profession in the work they perform."

The authors of the report call upon the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the medical practices occurring at detention sites. The CIA and the Pentagon have rejected that report's claims, stating that the findings contain "serious inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions." The Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations published the report. 

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