Physicians and Torture: AMA's Letter to the President
The following is a letter the American Medical Association (AMA) sent to President Obama on April 17 2009 regarding "reports in the national media about the involvement of health personnel,some of whom may have been physicians, with the torture of detainees held by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency" and the AMA response to those reports. The reproduction of the letter and accompanying AMA Principles of Medical Ethics and Opinions on "Physician Participation in Interrogation" and "Torture" can be accessed as a pdf file at this link. The text of the letter is as follows:
April 17, 2009
Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We are deeply troubled by reports in the national media about the involvement of health personnel,
some of whom may have been physicians, with the torture of detainees held by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Any involvement by physicians in torture is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer. Such involvement would violate core ethical obligations of the medical profession to “first,
do no harm” and to respect human dignity and rights.
These core principles are enshrined in the Code of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the codes of other professional medical organizations throughout the world. Our AMA Code forcefully states medicine’s opposition to torture or coercive interrogation and prohibits physician participation in such activities. Our Code calls on physicians to support victims of torture, to report the use of torture, and to strive to change situations in which torture is practiced. At stake are the rights and well-being of individuals, the integrity of medicine, and society’s trust in the profession.
As the nation’s largest association of physicians and the voice of the medical profession, the AMA stands ready to work with you to ensure that these core principles guide our nation’s physicians. Our aim is to assure that all physicians are fully aware of their ethical obligations, that physicians are not
put in ethically untenable positions, and that actions like those alleged do not ever occur under U.S.jurisdiction. We will assist you in any way possible to accomplish that goal.
Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD
Joseph M. Heyman, MD
Chair, Board of Trustees