HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Oath Betrayed

Stephen Miles, a medical ethicist has written a' new book, "Oath Betrayed," discussing how some in the medical profession participated in torture during this War on Terror and its coverup.  Andrew Sullivan of Time magazine has a brief review and the excellent editors at TalkLeft have some further discussion.   Here is a brief excerpt from the Time magazine article by Mr. Sullivan:

One of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's first instructions for military interrogations outside the Geneva Conventions was that military doctors should be involved in monitoring torture. It was a fateful decision — and we learn much more about its consequences in a new book based on 35,000 pages of government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The book is called Oath Betrayed (to be published June 27) by medical ethicist Dr. Stephen Miles, and it is a harrowing documentation of how the military medical profession has been corrupted by the Bush-Rumsfeld interrogation rules.

One of those rules was that a prisoner's medical information could be provided to interrogators to help guide them to the prisoner's "emotional and physical strengths and weaknesses" (in Rumsfeld's own words) in the torture process. At an interrogation center called Camp Na'ma, where the unofficial motto was "No blood, no foul," one intelligence officer testified that "every harsh interrogation was approved by the [commander] and the Medical prior to its execution." Doctors, in other words, essentially signed off on torture in advance. And they often didn't inspect the victims afterward. At Abu Ghraib, according to the Army's surgeon general, only 15% of inmates were examined for injuries after interrogation.

 

   

Some of the medical involvement in torture defies belief. In one of the few actual logs we have of a high-level interrogation, that of Mohammed al-Qhatani (first reported in TIME), doctors were present during the long process of constant sleep deprivation over 55 days, and they induced hypothermia and the use of threatening dogs, among other techniques. According to Miles, Medics had to administer three bags of medical saline to Qhatani — while he was strapped to a chair — and aggressively treat him for hypothermia in the hospital. They then returned him to his interrogators. Elsewhere in Guantánamo, one prisoner had a gunshot wound that was left to fester during three days of interrogation before treatment, and two others were denied antibiotics for wounds. In Iraq, according to the Army surgeon general as reported by Miles, "an anesthesiologist repeatedly dropped a 2-lb. bag of intravenous fluid on a patient; a nurse deliberately delayed giving pain medication, and medical staff fed pork to Muslim patients." Doctors were also tasked at Abu Ghraib with "Dietary Manip (monitored by med)," in other words, using someone's food intake to weaken or manipulate them.

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