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For Immediate Release

American Psychological Association Closes Loophole in Ethics Code, but More Code Reforms Needed

Cambridge, Mass - 03/03/2010

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) applauds last week's action by the American Psychological Association (APA) amending section 1.02 of its 2002 code of professional ethics. Since 2006, PHR and the Coalition for Ethical Psychology have been campaigning for the APA to remove language from its ethics code allowing a psychologist to violate other provisions of the code if done to comply with "law, regulations, or other governing legal authority." The new language restores the 1992 version of the code, which prohibits use of the standard "to justify or defend violating human rights."

"This move by the APA is an important step towards meaningful ethics reform, and PHR's constituents and allies made it happen," states Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "However, the APA has more to do before its standards of professional ethics are fully restored."

Section 1.02 was inserted into the APA ethics code in August 2002, and was used by both the APA and the Bush Administration to allow the participation of psychologists in the "enhanced interrogation" program, in which detainees were systematically abused and tortured under the supervision of health professionals. PHR is calling for the APA to also reform section 8.05 of the 2002 ethics code, which allows research on human subjects without their consent if such research comports with law or regulations.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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