As world attention has focused on allegations of torture and ill treatment
(cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment)1 by
US forces, there have been questions about the role of physicians and other
health professionals in abusive interrogations.2- 6 Considerable
light has been shed on these allegations by documents released in 2004 and
2005 under the Freedom of Information Act and official US Department of Defense
(DoD) investigations initiated since the Abu Ghraib investigations in 2004,
including an internal review of medical practices regarding detainees by the
US Army surgeon general.7 Following the release
of these documents and reports, in June 2005, the assistant secretary of defense
for health affairs released new ethical guidelines8 for
all health care personnel, including physicians, nurses, and medics. The new
guidelines are troubling, however, because they do not come to terms with
the participation of physicians and other health care professionals in officially
authorized interrogation practices that are absolutely prohibited by international
human rights law,1,9 the Third
Geneva Convention,10 and US military11 and domestic law that criminalizes torture, including
psychological torture.12 While the new DoD
ethical guidelines apply to all health care personnel, we focus on how the
guidelines enable physicians to facilitate and monitor abusive interrogation
practices and subvert well-established ethical duties to support health and
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