Politics & Media
Apr 07, 2009, 07:53AM

Dr. Torture

It's time to stop deceiving ourselves.

The recently released 2007 Red Cross report on torture, which can be found here, describes how CIA medical personnel were intimately involved with the torturing of detainees. According to the report:

In some cases it was alleged that, based on their assessments, health personnel gave instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust, or to stop particular methods [of torture].

Ostensibly the medical personnel were there to ensure that the detainees didn’t die. But of course, some did. And I imagine another reason the doctors oversaw the torture was to allow the torturer to push the victim to the outermost limits of human endurance. Doing so, the torturers assumed, would give them the best chance of eliciting confessions and other information. Without a doctor, it would have been possible to torture the prisoner too much (until death) or too little (allowing him to get off too easily).

That’s why doctors were present during torture sessions under the Argentine military junta during the 1980s. And it’s why, since the end of World War II, The New York Times says that 70 doctors around the world, most from Latin America, have been prosecuted for participating in torture sessions.

This is an example of how insidious torture is. Once you introduce it as official policy, its evil spreads in every direction, even to the medical professionals whose oath mandates that they protect the dignity of human life. When your doctors torture people, it’s a sign that there is something seriously wrong with your society. We need to fix it. And to fix it, we need to know what happened. It’s time for a full investigation.


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