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For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights Welcomes Effort to Improve U.S. Military’s Guidelines for Health Professionals

New York, NY - 10/13/2015

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today it strongly supports an initiative urging the Pentagon to adopt measures prohibiting doctors and other health professionals from participating in interrogations, force-feeding, and other actions that violate the ethical duty to “do no harm.”

“Physicians for Human Rights welcomes this effort to protect military health professionals from being asked or ordered to engage in unethical practices,” said Widney Brown, PHR’s director of programs. “The government’s treatment of a Navy nurse who refused to force-feed Guantanamo detainees points to its underlying desire to hide abusive practices and punish those who speak out – even health professionals following medical ethics and human rights standards. The Pentagon should swiftly adopt these recommendations as a first step toward ensuring the lawful treatment of health professionals as well as detainees.”

The Constitution Project has issued a letter outlining recommendations about how to eliminate the participation of health professionals in interrogations and forced-feedings, which include:

  • Physicians should not be involved in abusive practices, including participating in, being present for, condoning, or facilitating torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
  • Physicians should not be directly involved in interrogation, including conducting, participating in, or monitoring interrogation.
  • Physicians must maintain the confidentiality of medical information and not provide medical information for use in torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; or any interrogation.
  • Physicians must not treat prisoners for the purpose of returning them to interrogation; torture; or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
  • Physicians must report torture, abuse, or coercive treatments including those related to interrogation.
  • Physicians must have clinical independence in treating detainees.

PHR urges Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to adopt regulations that, at the very least, respect the ethical duties of health professionals and to enact a system that ensures no one violates these standards.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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