Intended for healthcare professionals


Doctors, interrogation, and torture

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 22 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1462
  1. Luis Justo, professor in charge, bioethics (
  1. Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Catamarca 140, Cipolletti (8324), Argentina

    Medical associations' statements on human rights are welcome, but we all need to do more to prevent abuses

    It is our duty as doctors to reject any attempt to bend our ethical aim to do no harm and to alleviate suffering. We should also actively resist any attempt, however powerful, to corrupt the idea of human dignity.

    Prompted by concerns about detainees' human rights in US military prisons, several medical associations have spoken out in the past month about the role of doctors in interrogation. These statements should bring medical debate on human rights to the forefront—along with news of the deaths of three prisoners in the US base at Guantanamo Bay1 and the recent statement by the Council of Europe Secretary General. This says that “Legislative and administrative measures effectively to protect individuals against violations of human rights committed by agents of foreign security services operating on the territory of member States appear to be the exception rather than the rule.”2

    One of the main reasons for reopening the discussion about the duties of health workers in the “war on terror” and its ethical implications is the existence of the so called biscuit teams (behavioural science consultation teams (BSCT)). These teams operate in US military prisons and comprise psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health workers. Last year's report by Vice Admiral Albert …

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