April 22, 2024

US report on CIA torture

Hi there,

Apologies for the brevity and late arrival of this week’s BioEdge. We plead pressure of Christmas and the holiday season… In any case, all of the bioethical oxygen this week was sucked up by the report from a US Senate committee on the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used by CIA operatives to convince al-Qaeda detainees to reveal their secrets. Although the broad outline of this drama was already known, the details are dismaying. It is shameful and unworthy of a great country, as Senator John McCain commented: “Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.”

On a different note, without prejudice to the truthfulness of the aforementioned excuses, I recently saw a stunning film by the brilliant Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, Le Passé (The Past). It begins as a conventional melodrama about an Iranian man who returns to Paris because his French wife wants a divorce. All the characters, both adults and children, are struggling to free themselves from a spider’s web of misunderstandings and secrets. The melodrama becomes an intensely engaging detective story.

The bioethical angle? At the heart of the conflicts is a brain-damaged woman, apparently in a permanent vegetative state. Is she still married? Does she have dignity? Is she still lovable? I can’t remember the last time I was so touched by the honesty, humanity and artistic skill of a film. Sorry, not true – the last time was Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film A Separation. But that lacked a bioethical angle.


Michael Cook
Two psychologists are at the centre of a huge controversy.
permanent vegetative state