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Doing Harm: Health Professionals’ Central Role in the CIA Torture Program

Health Professionals at Guantanamo

Medical and Psychological Analysis of the 2014 U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report’s Executive Summary

by Allen Keller, MDSarah Dougherty, JD, MPHScott A. Allen, MD, FACPStephen Soldz, PhDSteven Reisner, PhDVincent Iacopino, MD, PhDWidney Brown, Nathaniel A. Raymond, PHR research ethics advisor, and Megan Granski, Bellevue/ NYU Program for Survivors of Torture

December 2014

Read the report (pdf)

This analysis by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report’s executive summary builds on years of investigation and research documenting the systematic use of torture by the United States following the September 11, 2001 attacks. A detailed review of the 500-page SSCI executive summary was conducted by a team of PHR experts.

The torture report’s executive summary describes in detail the acts and omissions of CIA health professionals who violated their professional ethics, undermined the critical bond of trust between patients and doctors, and broke the law. Based on PHR’s detailed review of the SSCI summary, health professionals who participated in the CIA torture program violated core ethical principles common to all healing professions, including the following obligations:

  • To do no harm;
  • To protect the lives and health of patients under their care from harm and brutality;
  • To prevent and report torture;
  • To uphold standards of professionalism, be honest in professional interactions, and report incompetence, fraud, and deception;
  • To never engage in unethical research on human subjects;
  • To receive the informed consent of the patient before providing medical treatment;
  • To only perform roles consistent with their ethics and professional competencies; and
  • To find an ethical resolution when health professionals’ obligations to persons under their care and to society conflict with the agenda of state institutions.

PHR calls for a federal commission to investigate, document, and hold accountable all health professionals who participated in the CIA torture program.

Read the full analysis here.

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