Guantanamo's Hypocritical Oath?
Doctors, nurses and health care professionals were directed by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies to participate in interrogations that enabled the "torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment," of detainees, a panel of independent professionals concluded in a report released Monday.
The Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention - a 19-member group of heath, military, ethics and legal advisors - is urging an investigation into medical practices in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The task force based their findings on a two-year review of public records, which showed the involvement of health professionals in abusive interrogations and advising interrogators on how to increase the "disorientation and anxiety of detainees." The study also highlights the ongoing role of doctors and nurses in force-feeding hunger strikers in the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are currently 14 detainees being force-fed.
"We turned up more questions than we thought we would turn up," Dr. Gerald Thomson, who is one of the report's authors and a Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University, said in an interview. "If we're going to get a full view of what happened, making it much more difficult for it to happen in the future, we need further investigation. One of the big questions is why don't we hear anything from the doctors then, or now."
This is not the first time the issue of medical ethics has been raised concerning of CIA interrogations or the Guantanamo's hunger strike. In June, doctors writing in the venerated New England Journal of Medicine condemned Guantanamo as a "medical ethics-free zone" and urged American physicians to speak out against the force-feeding of detainees.
In April, the American Medical Association released a statement that said force-feeding detainees violates the “core ethical values” of the medical profession.
U.S. President Barack Obama has lamented the force-feeding of detainees, asking at his national security address earlier this year: “Is this who we are? . . . Is this something that our Founders foresaw?”
At the height of a hunger strike earlier this year - when more than 100 detainees were refusing food - U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly, the Southern Command chief who oversees Guantanamo’s prison, created controversy by denying detainees were force-fed, calling it "Hunger Strike Lite."
Pentagon spokesperson Todd Breasseale said Monday that the Department of Defense will not "knowing allow a detainee to commit suicide - not by means of a weapon, medication, nor self, or peer-imposed starvation."
Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm