Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Doctors launch online pledge against torture

19 May, 2017
Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence

Michael Cook*

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has launched an online pledge for health professionals across the United States to reject torture as an absolute wrong which can never be sanctioned.

"At a time when human rights are increasingly under threat, we've launched this pledge to marshal the powerful voices of health professionals across the United States and reaffirm their ethical duties to honour human dignity," said PHR's executive director, Donna McKay. "After 9/11, health professionals were enlisted in carrying out and providing legal cover for torture, practices which President Trump has repeatedly expressed an openness to reintroducing as US policy. This pledge is an opportunity for all health professionals to rally together and say we will never go back to those shameful times."

The online pledge commits health professionals to never support or participate in torture, to demand that the US government uphold the absolute legal prohibition against torture, and to urge their respective professional organizations to enforce ethical standards and investigate allegations of abuse. The pledge also serves as a declaration of support for health professionals who resist orders to torture or inflict harm.

"After 9/11, some health professionals worked with U.S. intelligence and military officials to design and even carry out the systematic torture and abuse of national security detainees, a gross breach of ethics and morality," said PHR's director of programs, Dr Homer Venters. "Health professionals are ethically bound to promote healing and prevent suffering. Torture is antithetical to the role of health professionals. It degrades the health and dignity of human beings and inflicts profound harm not only on victims, families, and communities, but also on perpetrators, institutions, and broader society. Health professionals have the opportunity to form a critical line of defence against such abominable practices and prevent the United States from backsliding into the moral and legal morass that defined the torture program."

The public pledge has been signed by many of the country's leading voices on medicine, ethics, health, and national security.

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