Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Healing Angel Spreads Its Wings 

American Progress Report has a number of Easter eggs in this week's basket, including this on the willing collusion of medical personnel in the application of torture and abuse by the Army:
"The first rule of medical ethics is as clear as day: Do no harm.caduceusstlouis-e85 It's no wonder, then, that alarms went off when the recent Church report on detainee abuse noted a "growing trend in the global war on terror" for military psychiatrists and psychologists to take part in interrogations. According to Time magazine report, the practice has been ongoing for quite some time. Army investigators have already found that military-intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib "had psychiatrists review their 'interrogation plans' for Iraqi detainees," and the Army surgeon general is currently investigating "whether some doctors helped direct what amounts to psychological torture." Not all mental health professionals find this acceptable. An Army psychiatrist told Time, "We should not be using our abilities to make things difficult for a person," but admitted there has been some "blurring of the boundaries." Wonder what he's referring to?"
Back in November on my own site, I noted the evidence turned up by the Red Cross on "flagrant violations of medical ethics" by doctors and medical personnel down in Guantanamo (scroll down). Part of the story contained this:
"Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said."
Biscuit. So cute. This would be the same "Biscuit" whose helpful memos turned up heavily redacted in the recent response to the ACLU's FOIA request for information on torture and interrogations. The same "Biscuit" Neil Lewis was referring to on PBS when he said:
"They would meet with the medical staff. They would meet with other people who knew about the detainees and make recommendations on how they could successfully be coerced into talking.
So... and the other part of the medical staff, the medical files were open. And this... this is an interesting issue because medical files between you, let's say, and your doctor, you assume are confidential. I'm not sure we expect them to be confidential at Guantanamo, although some of the ethicists say it should be, but I mean, this is Guantanamo; it's not Kaiser Permanente or some HMO."
I mean, let's not put too fine a point on it, shall we, guys and gals? We'd never go so far as to compare the slow degradation of our medical establishment with that of the Third Reich's, would we?

Not me.

: In retrospect, I'm feeling a touch bad about seeming to come down so hard on docs the last couple days. And just for clarification, I don't think, nor do I mean to insinuate, that all docs are reckless ethical monsters. If they were, they wouldn't be held in the godlike regard they are by so many millions. What I do believe, and have seen evidence of in the course of the real-life work I do, is that when serious ethical violations do crop up, the protective screen put up by their colleagues is so thick that it almost requires being a serial killer to have one's license revoked. As alert reader Rebecca noted, those guilty of the above incidents should have licenses pulled. But this is unlikely to happen, not just because the government is loathe to investigate, but also because the AMA, APA, and other like bodies won't be looking too closely either.

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