Doctors and nurses who worked under US military orders were complicit in torture and abuse of detainees at prisons run by the Pentagon and CIA, an independent report shows.
Healthcare personnel tasked with monitoring the health of prisoners helped design, and participated in “torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of the detainees, according to a report released by the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centers.
The two-year study said the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency “collaborate in intelligence gathering and security practices in a way that inflicted severe harm on detainees in US custody”.
Both the CIA and the Pentagon have rejected the report’s findings, calling them inaccurate and erroneous.
The abuse began shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks at US-run prisons in Afghanistan, Guantanamo as well as the CIA’s secret detention sites, according to the report.
“It’s clear that in the name of national security, the military trumped (the Hippocratic Oath), and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice”, said study co-author Gerald Thomson, professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University.
According to the Hippocratic Oath, medical personnel must adhere to medical ethics while carrying out their professional duties.
The report disclosed “the legacy of torture and detainee abuse at Guantanamo and elsewhere on the medical community,” co-author Leonard Rubenstein told the BBC’s Newsday program.
“What we found was that the department of defense and the CIA actually changed core ethical standards to facilitate participation by health professionals in the abuse of detainees. And those distortions still exist”, he said.
The study calls on the US Senate Intelligence Committee to fully investigate medical practices at the detentions centers.
In 2009, President Barack Obama banned “harsh interrogation techniques” used during the presidency of his predecessor George W. Bush. Critics believe those techniques amount to torture.