20 August 2004

--- "Do-No-Harm" Becomes A Joke

Dr. Steven Miles, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, just wrote in the Thursday issue of the medical journal LANCET that some American army doctors in Iraq and Afghanistan betrayed their duty to patients by participating in and covering up the abuse of prisoners.

Among the allegations cited by Dr. Miles are the following:
  • "Confirmed or reliably reported abuses of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan include beatings, burns, shocks, bodily suspensions, asphyxia, threats against detainees and their relatives, sexual humiliation, isolation, prolonged hooding and shackling, and exposure to heat, cold and loud noise."

  • "Government documents show that the US military medical system failed to protect detainees' human rights, sometimes collaborated with interrogators or abusive guards, and failed to properly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings."

  • "In one example, soldiers tied a beaten detainee at the top of his cell door and gagged him. The death certificate indicated that he died of 'natural causes...during his sleep'. After news media coverage, the Pentagon revised the certificate to say that the death was a 'homicide'." [BBC NEWS]

The Miles article was also accompanied by a LANCET editorial which said:
"Guidelines and codes of practice state that doctors, even in military forces, must first and foremost be concerned about their patients and bound by principles of medical ethics.

"Health care workers should now break their silence. Those who were involved in or witnessed ill-treatment need to give a full and accurate account of events at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay." [BBC News]
Will these US military doctors break their silence? Or are they under a threat not to spill the beans?

These days, it is difficult to become a doctor. Especially when you are accused of being a part of a monstrosity that, I wish to think, they did not want to participate in, in the first place.

This reminds me of the stories my old relatives used to tell me during the time that they experienced the Japanese occupation here in the Philippines. In a time of war, most of the sanity of the participants --- soldiers, medical personnel, even the war victims --- seem to evaporate like water in a barren desert.

All hell breaks lose afterwards.

Until somebody sings and we become aware....but by then, it might be too late. We can not bring back the dead to life anymore, and any emotional scar inflicted will forever be etched in the minds of the victims.

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