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Massachusetts Legislation Against Torture

Physicians for Human Rights is pleased to support this Massachusetts legislative advocacy effort initiated by the Massachusetts Campaign Against Torture (MACAT).

Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are contrary to our common belief in the fundamental dignity of each human being. In recent years, reports from various human rights organizations have shown the crucial role American health care professionals played in the torturing of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.   Massachusetts now has an opportunity to establish accountability for health care professionals who participate in torture. Legislation initially introduced by State Representative Jason Lewis and State Senator James B. Eldridge would professionally sanction any Massachusetts-licensed health care professional who participate in the torture, abusive  treatment, or direct interrogation of prisoners, thus helping to ensure that such unethical practices will not be repeated in the future.

Please sign the statement below and add your name to the list of individuals that will be presented to elected officials during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Endorse Massachusetts Legislation Prohibiting Torture by Health Care Professionals

We the undersigned individuals strongly support Massachusetts legislation that would prohibit the participation of health care professionals in the torture and abuse of prisoners.

We are guided by two basic principles: (1) health care professionals shall be dedicated to providing the highest standard of health care, with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights; and (2) torture and abusive treatment of prisoners are illegal, unethical, and inconsistent with the practice of health care professions.

We support the passage of legislation that would uphold these principles and help reinforce United States and international laws prohibiting torture by:

  • Using Massachusetts’ licensing authority to sanction Massachusetts-licensed health care professionals who participate in the torture, abusive treatment, or direct interrogation of prisoners, whether the conduct occurs within or outside Massachusetts;
  • Requiring health care providers to report torture or abusive treatment of prisoners to responsible authorities; and
  • Providing protection for health care professionals who refuse to undertake prohibited acts and those who report such conduct or participate in investigations of alleged violations.

The legislation’s prohibition against health care professionals’ unethical participation in torture and abusive treatment builds upon the policies of major national and international health care professional associations. By prohibiting direct participation in interrogations, the legislation establishes an important “bright line” that will protect Massachusetts-licensed health care professionals from being assigned to participate in activities that could result in the unethical treatment of prisoners.  

Through its licensing power, the Commonwealth has a unique ability to regulate effectively its health care professionals’ conduct in detention facilities. Recognizing the well-documented complicity and participation of health professionals in the abusive treatment of detainees in U.S. custody at places like Guantanamo during the last decade, this legislation seeks to prevent such abhorrent acts from being committed in the future by providing health care professionals with an additional legal basis to resist unlawful and unethical orders.

We strongly urge our elected officials to support this legislation.

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