Hypocritic Oath: Doctors in the ‘Terror War’

• Medical professionals claim CIA forced them to torture—not heal—Muslim POWs

By Victor Thorn

Doctors were forced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the United States Department of Defense to torture prisoners in Iraq and in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Gitmo) in Cuba, claims a report entitled “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror,” released on November 4 by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the George Soros-operated Open Society Foundation. The report also charged that various medical staffs “participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees.”

A 19-member panel called the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers discovered that the abuses exacted on prisoners included force-feeding, waterboarding, beatings, sleep deprivation, the infliction of extreme noise and temperature changes, plus a refusal to administer proper clinical services following intense interrogation.

All of these activities violated the Hippocratic Oath, which states: “Never do harm.”


After participating in this study, Dr. Gerald Thomson—a professor at Columbia University and member of the taskforce—concluded, “It’s clear that in the name of national security, the military trumped that covenant.”

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To understand how doctors can be pressured into performing such questionable deeds, on November 10 American Free Press interviewed Dr. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. Caplan offered this perspective. “Doctors know they’re breaking the Hippocratic Oath, but they’re told these rules are invalid in times of war or while fighting terrorism. So, unless military ethics are changed, you’ll keep finding doctors that follow the ethos of this culture. After all, the military is a culture where ordinary morality is put aside because they’re in the business of killing people.”

Taking this notion a step further, on November 7 AFP contacted attorney Andrea Prasow, a senior national security counsel advocate for Human Rights Watch.

When questioned about this topic, Prasow began, “Medical professionals were forced to violate their ethical codes. These issues have been ongoing, especially with the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo.”

In terms of the particulars behind these abuses, Prasow explained, “A number of medical professionals work for the military, and thus they have competing obligations and dual loyalties to their employer. It seems the U.S. government expects them to violate their medical oaths.”

Considering that Guantanamo Bay detention camp is her primary area of focus, Prasow stressed: “The World Medical Association has made it clear that prisoners should not be force-fed without their consent. The reason why this happens is because people aren’t being held accountable. Barack Obama has the same obligations as did George W. Bush to legally prosecute the guilty parties, but he’s not doing that. It’s a political choice for Obama in that his inaction has given the government a level of impunity.”

Offering proof, Prasow cited federal prosecutor John Durhan, who was appointed in 2009 by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the unlawful treatment of detainees in CIA custody.

Prasow stated, “Durham originally investigated over 100 cases of abuse. Eventually, he narrowed them down to a mere two cases, and then dropped those as well.”

Ending on a positive note, Prasow added, “Although doctors have been complicit in torture, others are speaking out against it.”

One of those is David Rothman, president of IMAP, who urged, “Putting on a uniform does not and should not abrogate the fundamental principles of medical professionalism.”

Victor Thorn

Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 40 books.