The Horrifying Way Doctors Were Used In the War On Terror


In fields like medicine, where doctors handle sensitive information about individual human beings, there are strict ethical codes that determine professional behavior. The most fundamental medical principles are "do no harm" and "put patient interest first."

The CIA, however, apparently flout these rules whenever it's convenient.

The Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres released a report that summarizes two years of research on our nation's treatment of suspected terrorists post-9/11. What they found is horrifying.

Doctors and nurses were instructed to act as "agents of the military," tasked with designing and implementing "cruel, inhuman and degrading" methods of torture from waterboarding to force-feeding. Many were told to breach patient confidentiality in order to tailor the torture to individuals. They were scolded if they attempted to treat the patients' torture wounds. Some doctors even acted as interrogators and torturers themselves.

Those who expressed discomfort were told that medical principles like "do no harm" did not apply because those being tortured were not ill, and therefore not patients. They were also told to ignore guidelines from the army surgeon general to report abuse of the detainees. What's still worse is that these doctors, if they can even be called that, acted as consultants to the Department of Justice, informing them that the methods being used were "medically acceptable," when all the literature in the world —and common sense — indicates otherwise.

Even if you somehow believe that terrorists deserve such treatment, remember that we are talking about suspected terrorists. In the aftermath of 9/11, military officials were given little information and even fewer resources. They resorted to racial profiling and circumstantial evidence when determining who to detain. The majority of suspected terrorists rounded up post-9/11 were innocent.

The U.S. government carelessly sacrificed the most basic ethical principles to detain hundreds of innocent civilians, deny them rights and torture them. What we are left with are hundreds of broken innocent people, a reputation in shambles and little intelligence.

Twelve years after 9/11, nothing has changed. We still have over 100 detainees in Guantanomo, many who were cleared for release three years ago. They are being tortured by doctors and denied the most basic human rights.

If we can sacrifice our medical integrity and hundreds of civilians in the name of ever-elusive "national security," what will we justify next?