Medical torture

Medical torture describes the intervention and active participation on certain occasions of medical professionals in acts of torture, either to know what victims may be able to endure, to apply treatments that intensify torture, or as torture itself. Medical torture may involve the practitioner’s medical knowledge to facilitate interrogation, corporal punishment for human experimentation, or the authorization and approval of torture in prisoners. The term also covers scientific (or pseudo-scientific) experimentation on human beings reluctant to such practices.

Medical ethics and international laws

It is accepted that medical torture violates the ethical principles that any professional is supposed to respect:

  • In the Hippocratic Oath, it is specified that the practice will follow the benefit of the sick. This statement translates as “I will go for the benefit of the sick, abstaining from all voluntary error and corruption.” These statements are framed within the ethical principles of beneficence and non-maleficence.
  • In response to Nazi experimentation with human prisoners , which was declared in the Nuremberg Trials as ” crimes against humanity, ” the World Medical Association developed the Genoa Declaration to supplant the now antiquated Hippocratic Oath. The Declaration of Genoa asks medical professionals to state: “I (the professional), I will maintain the highest respect for human life from the outset even under threat, and I will not use my medical knowledge against the laws of humanity.”
  • The Nuremberg trials also led to the Nuremberg Code , which explicitly outlines the limits of what is an acceptable medical experimentation.
  • The fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 directly prohibits the torture of prisoners of war and non-combatants.
  • The World Medical Association’s Tokyo Declaration 1 (1975) sets out a number of specific statements against torture, including that “the doctor should not tolerate, obviate or participate in the practice of torture.”
  • The United Nations Convention against Torture does not only refer to the medical team, and prohibits the practice of torture under any circumstances. The text explicitly states that there is no exception to this treaty under which torture is allowed.
  • The principles of medical ethics of the United Nations concerning the role of health personnel in the protection of prisoners and detainees against torture and any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (UN, 1982) specifically refers to medical workers But there is no mechanism to ensure its implementation.

Documented cases

  • Between 1937 and 1945, Japanese medical personnel belonging to Unit 731 participated in the torture and murder of more than ten thousand Chinese, Russians, Americans, and other prisoners of war during the Second Sino-Japanese War . 2
  • During World War II , the Nazi regime in Germany practiced human medical experimentation in a large number of people held in concentration camps. The experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele at Auschwitz are worth noting . 3
Auschwitz Experimental Medical Corps
  • Japanese surgeons also practiced vivisection to torture American prisoners on several Pacific islands. 4
  • Hillary Clinton , Secretary of State of the United States acknowledged and apologized for a research study conducted between 1946-1948, in which no consent were exposed to 1500 five Guatemalan inmates in local jails to prostitutes infected with syphilis or gonorrhea as part of a An experiment whose objective was to look for the doses of penicillin that would produce prophylaxis and / or cure of those diseases 6
  • Numerous claims have been made about the use of electroconvulsive therapy and prefrontal lobotomies, as well as other similar psychiatric treatments, which have sometimes been performed not in the interest of patients but as punishment for poor behavior or for making the patient Easier to handle. The classic example of this is what happened at the Lake Alice Hospital in New Zealand in the early 1970s. Children and adolescents at the hospital were routinely punished with an electroconvulsive treatment. Some governments, such as Norway and New Zealand, have since been paying for the therapies of those who suffered. The WHO has requested that the unmodified electroconvulsive prohibited, and states that in any form should be a treatment used in children. 7

Cases with medical or professional help

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, in the Healers Harm campaign, health professionals were accomplices to torture and abuse of detainees during the so-called “war on terror” of US President George W. Bush W. Bush . Health professionals are those who have been trained or licensed in the healing profession, including: physicians, psychiatrists, medical examiners, psychologists, and nurses. All of these professions were involved in torture and abuse of prisoners in secret prisons and CIA military detention centers , such as Guantanamo , Afghanistan and Iraq . Among other things, these health professionals:

  • They made abusive tactics and falsely legitimized their use.
  • They advised interrogators on methods of abuse that take advantage of inmates’ vulnerabilities.
  • They used medical procedures to wound prisoners.
  • They measured the pain and monitored interrogations that risked leaving the prisoners in need of treatment.
  • They found that the prisoners were able to survive more abuses.
  • They conditioned medical or mental health treatment in cooperation with interrogations.
  • They shared confidential patient information that was used to hurt prisoners.
  • They hid evidence of torture and abuse.
  • They turned a blind eye to cruel treatment.

State licensing boards and professional associations have a responsibility to uphold medical ethics and keep medical professionals responsible for their participation in the abuse. To date, none of these bodies have been investigated by – even in some cases they have not even admitted – abusive behavior of individual members in their professions. In 2009, after years of denying it, the American Psychological Association finally recognized that psychologists were in fact an integral part of the Bush administration’s torture policy. Some criticized the APA for failing to respond to allegations of “collusion between APA officials and the national security apparatus in providing ethical coverage for psychologists’ involvement in the abuse of detainees.” Referring to Fig.

Although the American Medical Association has made it clear that physicians should not participate in interrogations of any kind, they continue to insist that “there is no specific knowledge of physicians involved in abuse or torture”, despite abundant evidence that it knows otherwise Documents and notes from the government and the Office of Legal Counsel , a report of the International Committee of the Red Cross and several accounts of the survivors. 9 10

Other accounts of medical or professional complicity in torture include:

  • The chief psychologist at SERE (“Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape”), Colonel Morgan Banks, issued a guide in early 2003 for “behavioral science consultants” who helped design the Guantanamo interrogation strategy despite That he has emphatically denied that he defended the use of SERE techniques to break the detainees. The New Yorker notes that in November 2001, Banks went to Afghanistan, where he spent four months at Bagram Air Base , “supporting combat operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
  • A 2005 Human Rights Watch report suggests that torture was a routine in the designated Iraqi government. eleven
  • Dr. JC Carothers , a British colonial psychiatrist from Kenya, has been involved in the design of the interrogation of prisoners Mau Mau .
  • Similarly, it has been hinted that Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Dr. Ayad Allawi violated his obligation of medical ethics while serving as Western European secret police chief for the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein . However, the same sources allege that Allawi had abandoned his medical education at that point and the title of doctor “was conferred on him by the Baath party.” 12

In fiction

  • Actor Michael Palin brings to life a torturer doctor in the film Brazil , of Terry Gilliam .
  • In the adaptation of George Orwell ‘s novel 1984 , the protagonist, Winston Smith , is subjected to torture by the thinking police .
  • Actor Gregory Peck plays Dr. Josef Mengele in The Children of Brazil by Franklin J. Schaffner .
  • The film Someone flew over the cuckoo’s nest , starring Jack Nicholson , reflects on the abuse of psychiatric techniques, including electroconvulsive therapy and lobotomy.
  • In the 24 series, various forms of medical torture (including hallucinogens and injections) are used to obtain confessions and information from terrorists who pose a threat.


  • This work contains a derivative translation of Medical Torture from Wikipedia, in particular, this version , published by its editors under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License .
  1. Back to top↑
  2. Back to top↑
  3. Back to top↑
  4. Back to top↑
  5. Back to top↑
  6. Back to top↑
  7. Back to top↑
  8. Back to top↑