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Medical Role In Interrogations Curtailed By Pentagon

by Medindia Content Team on June 10, 2006 at 2:12 PM
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Medical Role In Interrogations Curtailed By Pentagon

On tuesday the Pentagon placed new restrictions on a doctors' role in interrogating detainees, but critics were against any policy that gives medical professionals a role, claiming that it can lead interrogaters' to use harsher tactics than they would in the absense of medical advice.

Medical professionals were used by the military in interrogations and this has drawn a lot of flak from human rights groups and medical ethicists. They charge that doctors have been used unethically at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to force-feed detainees who are on hunger strikes and also to provide medical advice to interrogators.

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William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs approved of the new policy, saying it was drawn to ensure that healthcare professionals play an appropriate role.He said that the medicos did not take part in interrogations but are not allowed to shape it with their knowledge of a subject's phobias and medical vulnerabilities.

The policy attempts to clearly demarcate between medical personnels and mental health professionals, who also assist interrogators. The new policy directs that physicians, such as psychiatrists, who are not ordinarily used as behavioral consultants, 'may be so assigned' when qualified psychologists are not available. The doctors are also permitted to 'make psychological assessments of the character, personality, social interactions, and other behavioral characteristics of detainees.' and provide the military personnel with training on 'safe and effective interrogation methods' and advise them on the 'potential effects of cultural and ethnic characteristics of subjects.'
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The policy has drawn a lot of criticism as well. It has failed to mention international law or treaties. Critics are also concerned that the consultants give interrogators information that helps them to increase the stress of detainees, giving silent approval that calls for harsher treatment.

Rubenstein, with Physicians for Human Rights, pointed out that anything short of a complete ban on the use of psychologists or physicians in interrogations would result in interrogators mis-using the service of the medical professionals.

The American Psychiatric Assn.'s guidelines prohibit its members from taking part in interrogations. Professional guidelines for psychologists are less clear.

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