A much-needed oped in Sunday’s New York Times, pointing out that the government’s investigations of legal misconduct on the part of John Yoo and Jay Bybee have not been matched by inquiries into how medical professionals designed and implemented torture.
Leonard Rubenstein and Stephen Xenakis write that “the government doctors and psychologists who participated in and authorized the torture of detainees have escaped discipline, accountability or even internal investigation.” In case after case, psychologists and doctors set up regimes that included torture and revived detainees so that torture could continue.
The piece notes:
Psychologists designed a program for new arrivals at Guantánamo that kept them in isolation to “enhance and exploit” their “disorientation and disorganization.” Medical officials monitored interrogations and ordered medical interventions so they could continue even when the detainee was in obvious distress. In one case, an interrogation log obtained by Time magazine shows, a medical corpsman ordered intravenous fluids to be administered to a dehydrated detainee even as loud music was played to deprive him of sleep.
ProPublica, among others, has reported that government medical personnel took part in the waterboarding of high-profile detainee Abu Zubaydah. Sheri Fink writes:
On five occasions between Aug. 4 and Aug. 9, an additional cable was sent containing “medical information” along with such information as the strategies for interrogation sessions, raw intelligence, the use of interrogation techniques to elicit information, and the reactions to those techniques. The fact that medical information was included in these cables hints that Abu Zubaydah was medically monitored during or after being subjected to those techniques.
Fink notes that the American Medical Association has not made public whether its ethics and judicial body has ever investigated or sanctioned physicians for participating in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has launched an advocacy campaign that aims “to hold accountable healers that have harmed.” Citizens can file complaints against health professionals suspected of participating in torture and to support legislation, such as a proposed bill in New York state, that prohibits health professionals from participating in torture or the improper treatment of prisoners at home or abroad.
It’s fine to begin at the state level — but we need the Justice Department to investigate and, hopefully, hold healers to a standard higher than it has, unfortunately, applied to lawyers.