Participating in Torture?:California Doctors Now Beware
Here is a News Release, August 14, 2008,from American Friends Service Committee :
TO CONDEMN USE OF TORTURE IN ‘WAR ON TERROR’
SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Legislature today adopted a resolution aimed at preventing California health professionals from engaging in coercive interrogations of detainees at Guantánamo and other U.S. military prisons.Hopefully, the Bush administration will quickly follow the request of the California Legislature and remove California-licensed health professionals from participating in coercive interrogations." On the other hand Bush may simply ignore the request with "the United States doesn't participate in torture." ..Maurice.
Senate Joint Resolution 19 instructs the state’s licensing boards to inform California doctors, psychologists and other health professionals of their obligations under national and international law relating to torture. The boards will warn the licensees that they may one day be subject to prosecution if they participate in interrogations that do not conform to international standards of treatment of prisoners.
“The resolution calls attention to the intolerable dilemma that torture presents when those who are supposed to be the healers in our society are involved in the abuse of prisoners,” said Eisha Mason, associate regional director for the American Friends Service Committee, one of the organizations that sponsored the resolution.
State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) introduced the resolution in response to evidence that – despite the medical oath to “first, do no harm” – some physicians, psychologists and other health personnel have been complicit in abusive interrogations of detainees by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency.
“As professional licensure and codes of ethics are regulated by states, California has the obligation to notify members of laws concerning torture that may result in their prosecution,” said Ridley-Thomas.
SJR 19 aims to protect the integrity of the health professions and individual practitioners by informing them of their legal and ethical obligations, and giving them a legal reference to remove themselves from abusive situations should they have to contravene the orders of a military superior.
A survey of medical students conducted by the Harvard Medical School, published in the October, 2007 issue of the International Journal of Health Services, found that one-third of the respondents did not know that under the Geneva Conventions, they should refrain from participating in coercive interrogations.
“This is an important advance, not just in the U.S., but internationally as well,” said Dr. Steven H. Miles, professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota. “More doctors abet torture than treat its victims, and it is time for them to be called to the mission of medicine—not to practice torture—and to be reminded that they will be held accountable to international law.”
“No government has the authority to legalize torture,” Miles added.
The resolution further requests that the Department of Defense and the CIA remove California-licensed health professionals from participating in coercive interrogations.
“This has been an effort for almost three years,” said Dr. Jose Quiroga, himself a torture survivor and now medical director of Program for Torture Victims, a sponsor of the resolution. “The California Legislature is sending a message to the Federal Government that they are wrong, and I hope that other state legislatures will begin to do this.”
The passage of SJR 19 makes California the first state in the nation to officially condemn the use of torture since the beginning of the “War on Terror.” A measure currently under consideration by the New York State Legislature, which would prohibit the state’s health professionals from participating in the torture or improper treatment of detainees, is expected to pass later this year.
“California’s adoption of the resolution sends a clear message that we are going to live by the principles that this country is founded on,” said Martha Dina Argüello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, another of the resolution’s sponsoring organizations. “We will not let fear erode our civil liberties and we will hold health professionals accountable to ethical and legal standards.”
The California State Senate gave final approval to the resolution in a 21-13 roll call vote. On Tuesday, it passed the Assembly 45-31.
“Torture is much more than a political issue,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It is an ethical, moral and spiritual issue that has not only become a shame, but it is an evil in our midst.”
The Los Angeles offices of the American Friends Service Committee, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Program for Torture Victims coordinated the campaign in favor of SJR 19. The resolution had the additional support, through petitions and testimony, of numerous faith, human rights and medical groups including the California Medical Association.
Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles
Cell: (310) 261-0073, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) was founded in 1961 as a non-profit advocacy organization. Aimed at creating a peaceful and just world through the education of the medical community, PSR serves as a strong reminder of the moral and legal responsibilities of practicing physicians on a national level.
Eisha Mason, Associate Regional Director, American Friends Service Committee – Pacific Southwest
Cell: (310) 528-4229, Email: email@example.com
Founded in 1917, the AFSC has established itself as a successful service oriented peace and justice organization. Founded on principles of the Quaker faith, the American Friends Service Committee has dedicated nearly a century to providing a voice for communities while confronting social injustice through peaceful activism.
Dr, Steven H. Miles, Professor of Medicine and Bioethics, University of Minnesota
Dr. Miles has been a strong advocate and leading expert on medical ethics and human rights for the entirety of his career. As a Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Miles is also a faculty member on the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics. The author of three books, Dr. Miles’ Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror (2006) served as one of the first public accounts of physician’s roles in the continuation of United States torture methods used in detainee camps. Based on meticulous research, Miles was able to unearth the truth regarding the systematic torture of detainees by US military medical practitioners. For his extensive work and commitment to ethical inquiries, Dr. Miles has received the Distinguished Service Award of the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities.
Dr. Jose Quiroga, Medical Director and Founder, Program for Torture Victims
Cell: (818) 943-0598, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Program for Torture Victims served as the pioneer of medical and social services aimed towards torture victims. The organization advocates for the advancement of anti-torture legislation, and has created a safe environment for those who are often alienated and forgotten after trauma and abuse. Dr. Quiroga was originally a cardiologist and the personal physician for Chilean President, Salvador Allende. After the military coup led by August Pinochet, Quiroga was detained and subject to horrific treatment. He managed to escape to the United States in 1977, where he founded the Program for Torture Victims.
Dr. Steven Reisner, Adjunct Professor in Clinical Psychology, Columbia University and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychology, New York University Medical Center
Cell: (646) 415-1413, Email: email@example.com
Dr. Reisner is a psychoanalyst, a Supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program, and a consultant to the United Nations on stress and trauma. As a leading activist calling for a ban of psychologist’s participation in interrogations at United States detention centers, Reisner is also currently running for the presidency of the American Psychological Association. He is heavily involved in socially aware theater arts programs, and is the director the Theater Arts Against Political Violence. Reisner’s active stance on socially conscious work has made him an invaluable asset to the California Campaign to Stop Torture.
State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas
Office: (916) 651-4026, Email (Communications Advisor Fahizah Alim): firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas was elected to the California State Senate in November, 2006 after serving two terms in the California State Assembly. Ridley-Thomas also served on the Los Angeles City Council for nearly twelve years. He attended the University of Southern California and received his doctorate in Social Ethics and Policy Analysis. He introduced SJR 19 in the California State Senate.
The American Friends Service Committee is an international peace and justice organization founded in 1917 and governed by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Its programs of peace, relief, reconciliation and development are based on nonviolence and belief in the inherent goodness of all persons. In 1947, AFSC accepted the Noble Peace Prize on behalf of all Quakers worldwide. Its Pacific Southwest Regional Office is located in downtown Los Angeles.