Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine (2008-09-01)

"Enhanced" interrogation of detainees: do psychologists and psychiatrists participate?

  • Halpern John H,
  • Halpern Abraham L,
  • Doherty Sean B

DOI
https://doi.org/10.1186/1747-5341-3-21
Journal volume & issue
Vol. 3, no. 1
p. 21

Abstract

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Abstract After revelations of participation by psychiatrists and psychologists in interrogation of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and Central Intelligence Agency secret detention centers, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association adopted Position Statements absolutely prohibiting their members from participating in torture under any and all circumstances, and, to a limited degree, forbidding involvement in interrogations. Some interrogations utilize very aggressive techniques determined to be torture by many nations and organizations throughout the world. This paper explains why psychiatrists and psychologists involved in coercive interrogations violate the Geneva Conventions and the laws of the United States. Whether done with ignorance of professional ethical obligations or not, these psychiatrists and psychologists have crossed an ethical barrier that may best be averted from re-occurring by teaching medical students and residents in all medical specialties about the ethics principles stemming from the 1946–1947 Nuremberg trials and the Geneva Conventions, together with the Ethics Codes of the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association; and, with regard to psychiatric residents and psychological trainees, by the teaching about The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry and the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, respectively. In this way, all physicians and psychologists will clearly understand that they have an absolute moral obligation to "First, do no harm" to the human beings they professionally encounter.