More symptoms of decay: professional associations abandoning their standards and obligation to protect us

Summary: About the failure of our professional associations to uphold their own standards and defend the the people — defend the Republic.  That’s an essential element of professionalism, apparently lost in 21st century America.

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The deterioration in the Republic proceeds at a speed beyond my worst fears (underestimating this was my worst mistake on these pages in 2010).  Not just the government, although its institutions rot at an alarming rate.  Torture, surveillance, assassination, foreign wars based on lies — the by now usual long list.  It’s the failure of our private institutions that astonishes me.  The ones that the Founders hoped would contain the government and defend our liberties.

Now attorneys write briefs justifying torture, wars without legal authorization, surveillance and detention without warrant, and indeed limitless Executive power under the authoritarian justification of the President as Commander in Chief.  It’s not lone actors, as the State legal associations have de facto ratified these actions though their inaction (e.g, the Pennsylvania Bars inaction on John Yoo, and the Alaska Bar inviting him to be their keynote speaker).  And judges openly applauding the President’s violation of the laws.

Perhaps worse (as we expect little good from attorneys) doctors participate in torture.  Long rumored, now documented in “Neglect of Medical Evidence of Torture in Guantánamo Bay: A Case Series“, Vincent Iacopino (Adjunct Prof of Medicine, U of Minnesota) and  Stephen N. Xenakis (Brigadier General, US Army, retired), PLOS Medicine, April 2011.  Will the State Medical Associations act on this clear violation of medical ethics?  Abstract:

Background

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, the government authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation” techniques that were previously recognized as torture. While the complicity of US health professionals in the design and implementation of US torture practices has been documented, little is known about the role of health providers, assigned to the US Department of Defense (DoD) at the US Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO), who should have been in a position to observe and document physical and psychological evidence of torture and ill treatment.

Methods and Findings

We reviewed GTMO medical records and relevant case files (client affidavits, attorney–client notes and summaries, and legal affidavits of medical experts) of 9 individuals for evidence of torture and ill treatment and documentation by medical personnel. In each of the 9 cases, GTMO detainees alleged abusive interrogation methods that are consistent with torture as defined by the UN Convention Against Torture as well as the more restrictive US definition of torture that was operational at the time.

The medical affidavits in each of the 9 cases indicate that the specific allegations of torture and ill treatment are highly consistent with physical and psychological evidence documented in the medical records and evaluations by non-governmental medical experts.  However, the medical personnel who treated the detainees at GTMO failed to inquire and/or document causes of the physical injuries and psychological symptoms they observed. Psychological symptoms were commonly attributed to “personality disorders” and “routine stressors of confinement.”   Temporary psychotic symptoms and hallucinations did not prompt consideration of abusive treatment. Psychological assessments conducted by non-governmental medical experts revealed diagnostic criteria for current major depression and/or PTSD in all nine cases.

Conclusion

The findings in these nine cases from GTMO indicate that medical doctors and mental health personnel assigned to the DoD neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm.

For more information

(a)  See this Salon article about the allegations against Dr. Larry James (Colonel, US Army, retired). He was the Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003 and at Abu Ghraib in 2004.  Neither the Louisiana nor Ohio psychology boards would even investigate the well-documented accusations.

(b)  The medical documentation of torture by Michael Peel and Vincent Iacopino, Cambridge University Press (2002) — See Amazon.

(c)  Posts about torture:

  1. Something every American should read, 25 March 2009 — Details about CIA torture programs
  2. We close our eyes to torture by our government. The Brits are stronger., 9 April 2009
  3. So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?, 30 April 2009
  4. The Reverse Nuremberg Defense – “We were just giving orders“, 20 May 2009
  5. Our government does torture, but it is just like the treatment of young reporters by newspapers, 16 February 2010
  6. The US government at work, doing dark deeds in our name, 13 March 2010
  7. Reading about American torturers is a bummer. Let’s close our eyes and pretend it didn’t happen, and will not happen again., 22 March 2010
  8. An expert speaks to us about torture, 5 May 2010
  9. The long-term consequences to America of torturing Bradley Manning, 15 March 2011

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