The article titled “U.S. military doctors abetted prisoner abuse, study says” was written by Jane Sutton in the Chicago Tribune newspaper on November 04 2013. In the article, Sutton reports the findings of a study by the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers which studied the conduct of US military doctors in the interrogation of detainees after the September 11 attacks.
The reporter states that military doctors violated medical ethics by collaborating with interrogators to harm prisoners after the September 11 attacks in a bid to force the prisoners to give the required information. The study focused on the conduct of military doctors in the interrogation of detainees during operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisons, and the Guantanamo Bay after the September 11 2001 attacks. According to the report, the practices by the doctors included, “designing, participating in and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees” Sutton (2013) quotes from the task force’s study.
According to the reporter, the main ethical issues raised in the study are doctors abandoning their medical ethics principles of non-maleficence, justice, respect for persons, respect for autonomy and honesty. Non-maleficence is the ethical principle that urges all medical personnel to “first, do no harm”. In this case, the reporter notes that the military doctors participated in enabling “torture and cruel treatment, inhumane treatment of detainees” (Sutton, 2013). This means that doctors caused intentional harm to people. Violation of justice comes in because the treatment accorded to detainees negates the call for fairness in treatment of human beings.
The reporter notes that, “mental health professionals advised interrogators on how to exploit detainees’ anxieties and fears and when to increase the harshness of interrogations” (Sutton, 2013). This amounts to violation of the medical ethical principle of respect to persona which calls upon medical professionals to treat people with dignity. The doctors are also said to have used medical records and psychological profiles of detainees to help interrogators create feelings of dread and dependency among detainees. This amounts to violation of the detainees’ dignity, doing harm intentionally and disrespect to the rights of the detainees.
I agree with the reporter that military doctors violated nearly all of the five principles of medical ethics. I do so informed by the rampant and substantiated news of torture of detainees after the 9/11 attacks. Although the country’s national security was and has been at risk, the involvement of doctors in interrogations should never equate to abandonment of medical ethics. This is so because majority of the detainees were only suspects and more so human beings who deserve to face a humane and dignified course of justice.
Ethics refers to a certain set code of conduct that s expected of a given group of people. Morality refers to personal values and character. The former is determined by external factors such as religion, profession or peer group while the latter is determined by what one considers to be right or wrong. For instance, it is ethical for doctors to respect the right of a patient to choose the kind of treatment they want while it is moral for children to treat elderly people with respect in ways they deem fit of respectful conduct. An article in the Daily Telegraph titled “Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say” by Stephen Adams on 29 Feb 2012 sheds more light to the differences between morality and ethics. Adams (2012) notes that an article in the Journal of Medical ethics states that children born with disabilities can be killed by their parents because they are not actual persona and have no “moral right to life”. This article raises issues of morality (choices between right and wrong) and ethics (medical professionals writing an article in support of an issue that is against the principles of medical ethics).
Jane, S. (2013, November 4). U.S. military doctors abetted prisoner abuse, study says. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 29, 2014, from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-11-04/news/sns-rt-usa-guantanamodoctors-20131104_1_detainees-prisoner-abuse-cia
Stephen, A. (n.d.). Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 27, 2014, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9113394/Killing-babies-no-different-from-abortion-experts-say.html