New Level of Depravity

Thursday, June 30, 2005

What do you think of when I mention the occupation of doctor? My assumption is that most of us would answer: healer or a person dedicated to helping others. Apparently the U.S. government has another meaning for doctor: Facilitator of torture.
A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds light on another disgusting practice going on at GITMO. It would appear that standard operating practice at GITMO is to have no-mandate doctors provide information on detanees to interrorgators.
Vice Admiral Albert T. Church (Inspector General-U.S. Navy) led an investigation this spring that found "While access to medical information was carefully controlled at GITMO, we found in Afghanistan and Iraq that interrorgators sometimes had easy access to such information." Further light can be shed on this subject by a policy statement from SOUTHCOM (U.S. Southern Command) in effect since August 6, 2002, which instructs health care providers that communications from enemy persons under U.S. control at GITMO "are not confidential and are not subject to the assertion of privileges" by detainees.
The statement goes on to say such information, "shall be communicated to other United States personnel with an apparent need to know, whether the exchange of information with the non-medical person is initiated by the provider or by the non-medical person." This makes it mandatory that the health care provider initiate such information transfer whether provoked or not.
Such practices are in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions that state "medical personnel shall not be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to the rules of medical ethics." The practices are also in direct violation of the 1966 Internatinal Covenant on Civilian and Political Rights. Another internal memo dated May 24, 2005 from the Army medical Command urges health professionals to avoid involvement in detainee care, absent an emergency.
What happened to doctor patient confiedentiality? Since when is the role of a doctor that of providing interrorgators with information they can use to better torture people? I will sum this up with what the New England Journal of Medicine had to say about these reports: "Wholesale disregard for clinical confidentiality is a large leap across the threshold, since it makes every caregiver into an accessory to intelligence gathering. Not only does this undermine patient trust: it puts prisoners at greater risk for serious abuse. The global political fallout from such abuse may pose more of a threat to U.S. security than any secrets still closely held by shocked internees at Guantanamo Bay."

An interesting inside view to this story can be found in the Washington Post article by Army Medical Corps and presidential physician to George H.W. Bush, Burton J. Lee III.

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