WASHINGTON — A report by a medical task force says Defense Department and CIA health professionals violated professional ethics standards by helping to develop interrogation and torture techniques and participating in force-feeding of terror suspects over the last decade.
While reports of torture following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are not new, the report by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession said the U.S. should do a full investigation into how much military and intelligence physicians and psychologists participated in the interrogations, saying the record “remains fragmentary.”
The report, compiled by a 20-member task force says that government agencies improperly used legal restrictions rather than ethical standards to determine the actions of health professionals. And it said heath workers must be held to higher ethical standards than interrogators, who can inflict stress to legal limits.
“A health professional has an obligation not to participate in acts that deliberately impose pain or suffering on a person,” said the report, which was also funded by the Open Society Foundations and is titled, Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror. It added that replacing ethical standards with legal ones “eviscerates the ethical standards.”
Billionaire and longtime liberal political donor George Soros funds Open Society Foundations.
The report said that medical professionals were used to advise interrogators on how to exploit detainee vulnerabilities, even as they were required to be present in order to protect detainees from severe harm. And the report said that even today reporting requirements for health professionals who witness abuse are unclear.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said the report “contains serious inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions,” adding that the CIA has no detainees in custody and that the interrogation program was ended by President Barack Obama in 2009. He said the CIA’s medical staff upholds “the highest standards of their profession in the work they perform,”
The ongoing debate over force-feeding hunger strikers, particularly at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was also targeted in the report. The task force said that force-feeding and the use of restraints should be prohibited and that health professionals should be trained in how to ethically handle hunger strikes.
Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said the allegations in the report involving military doctors have been subject to a number of investigations over the years and have never been substantiated. He also said the force-feeding of detainees is legal and “medically sound,” and is largely the same as procedures used in U.S. prisons and nursing homes.
Currently there are 14 detainees at Guantanamo who are refusing to eat and on the list for force-feeding, although some may drink supplements and don’t always have to go through the process. The men are protesting their indefinite detention.
U.S. courts have so far rejected challenges to the force-feeding at Guantanamo, with officials arguing that without the feeding the detainees would die.