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A grim dilemma: Treating the tortured prisoner
Date:5/9/2011

(Garrison, NY) Medical involvement with torture is prohibited by international law and professional associations, and yet sometimes it is the right thing for doctors to do, argue two bioethicists. Their timely paper in the Hastings Center Report comes as news of the trail leading to the death of Osama Bin Laden points to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who were subject to "enhanced interrogation techniques," which many believe amounted to torture.

Despite its prohibition, torture remains widespread in more than a third of countries, according to data from Amnesty International cited in the article. And physicians and other medical personnel are implicated in at least 40 percent of cases, the article reports. Recently declassified documents from the Central Intelligence Agency on interrogation at Guantanamo Bay state, "OMS [Office of Medical Services] provided comprehensive medical attention to detainees . . . where Enhanced Interrogation Techniques were employed with high value detainees."

The dilemma physicians finds themselves in, according to authors Chiara Lepora and Joseph Millum, is that to care for tortured patients at the request of their torturers may "entail assisting or condoning terrible acts," but to refuse may in some cases mean abandoning a patient in need of a doctor's care or who desires such care. Chiara Lepora, M.D., is a visiting professor at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver who formerly worked for Doctors Without Borders as physician and emergency coordinator. Joseph Millum, Ph.D. has a joint appointment with the Clinical Center Department of Bioethics and the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health.

While complicity is wrong, Lepora and Millum contend that there are degrees of complicity, and it can be
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Contact: Michael Turton
turtonm@thehastingscenter.org
845-424-4040 x242
The Hastings Center
Source:Eurekalert

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