Doctors in Guantanamo Bay are at risk of being accessories to torture

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7331.235 (Published 26 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:235
  1. Tom Marshall, lecturer in public health medicine
  1. Banbury OX17 3PG

    Recent events make me concerned on behalf of my medical colleagues in the US military forces. I have imagined what I might do if I were to find myself posted to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Perhaps I would pen a letter to the BMJ because of its keen interest in medical human rights issues.1 This is the sort of letter I might write.

    EDITOR—I have been posted to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay. I will be expected to provide medical care to the hundreds of prisoners being relocated from Afghanistan. I am told that they are coming to Cuba for intensive interrogation.

    I am under no illusion: this is a euphemism for brutal treatment and torture.2 It is widely believed—in Central and South America at least—that interrogations sponsored by the CIA and US military incorporated violence ranging from beatings to cycles of drowning. As a doctor, should I resuscitate prisoners so that they might be retortured? I would appreciate your advice.

    My Alter Ego

    We can ill afford to assume that inhumane treatment is sponsored only in countries where democracy and respect for human rights are not secure. Given the backing of the UK and US governments for detaining prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, we can also no longer assume that doctors placed in such unfortunate positions can rely on the support of the democratic world.

    The BMJ could fulfil a useful function in debating this issue and offering advice and support to our unfortunate US colleagues.


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