OATH BETRAYED: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror. By Steven H. Miles
Vulnerable in body and mind, we look to our physicians for compassion — which makes torture that’s abetted by the medical profession especially horrific. Jacobo Timerman, a victim of Argentina’s “dirty war,” wrote of the special pain of seeing a doctor present in the interrogation room, of the sense of abandonment that lay in knowing that a person of science “is with you when you are tortured by the beasts.”
But the link between healing and torture is hard to sever. In the Renaissance, special “torture doctors” helped inquisitors choose their interrogation methods. In August 2004, Steven H. Miles, a bioethicist and professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota, reported in the British medical journal the Lancet that the United States had, in effect, returned to the era of the torture doctor. In Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Miles wrote, “The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations.” Miles’s charges were detailed: Death certificates had been falsified, he wrote, and military health personnel had reported incidences of torture belatedly, if at all.