Indecent medicine revisited: Considering physician involvement in torture

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Although physician involvement in torture has been systematically documented and condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, and other human rights organizations, less attention has been paid to the arguments that favor the participation of physicians in torture. Perhaps this is because of a widespread sense that torture is so completely antithetical to medical ethics as to require no discussion. Doctors who torture or otherwise contribute in deliberately harming individuals would then be so beyond the pale as not even to require reasoned criticism. However, the literature is not uniformly opposed to physician participation. Gary Jones (1980) explicitly argues for doctor participation in torture when states of emergency exist and no other effective means are available to resolve the crisis. Because effectiveness in crisis resolution is crucial and because effective torture requires medical involvement, clinical and research resources are needed to increase the likelihood of success. More recently, Michael Gross (2004) argues that physicians have a civic duty to aid their security forces in the interrogation of certain suspects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhysicians at War
Subtitle of host publicationThe Dual-Loyalties Challenge
EditorsFritz Allhoff
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-1-4020-6911-6
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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