April 20, 2024


 Two of America’s leading medical organisations have banned members from participating in interrogations and torture in places like Guantanamo Bay. A new policy by American Psychiatric Association prohibits psychiatrists from direct participation in interrogations, including "asking or suggesting questions, or advising authorities on the use of specific techniques of interrogation with particular detainees."

The American Medical Association has adopted a slightly more flexible resolution which allows doctors to help develop interrogation strategies for "general training purposes", provided those strategies do not threaten or cause harm, are humane, and do not violate detainees’ rights. "Physicians must not conduct, directly participate in, or monitor an interrogation with an intent to intervene, because this undermines the physician’s role as healer," says AMA ethicist Dr Priscilla Ray.

The association representing American psychologists has so far refused to take so firm a stand. The director of ethics for the American Psychological Association, Stephen Behnke, says that the participation of psychologists can help to humanise the process of interrogation. He says his colleagues should not be involved in direct interrogation of detainees, or in tactics that could lead to cruel and abusive treatment of detainees, but that participation has been customary in police work and can be done ethically.