First, do no harm. It’s a commandment often incorrectly attributed to the Hippocratic oath yet it provides an ethical foundation for modern medicine. The American Medical Association’s principles of medical ethics begins, “A physician shall be dedicated to providing competent medical care, with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights.”
More than 35 prominent doctors and public health professionals – including a former U.S. surgeon general, six Nobel Laureates in chemistry and medicine, and 18 current and former deans of public health and medical schools – are calling on President Obama to end force-feeding at Guantánamo and stop undermining medical care.
An independent task force issued a report today highlighting the ongoing violations of medical ethics at Guantánamo and calling on the Department of Defense (DoD), the medical community, and others to conform to ethical principles in order to stop harming the detainees.
Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) anti-torture expert, asked to immediately end force feeding of Guantánamo detainees during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this afternoon. Xenakis said force feeding is painful and degrading, and violates medical guidelines by undermining the doctor-patient relationship, and engaging health professionals in the use of force against the detainees.
Since 1997, every June 26 has marked the annual United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Millions of people around the world, including an estimated 500,000 in the United States, are struggling with the impact of horrific acts intentionally inflicted on them.