Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Here be dragons

Gonna be reading the Hamdi decision (which Watchful Babbler made me realize I'd linked to earlier, without realizing it) and trying to get over my outrage so I can return to matters religious and theological.

In the meantime, try to follow the bouncing ball on this one.

In July of last year, four detainees at Gitmo filed an ethics complaint with the California Medical Board against Capt. John S. Edmondson, the doctor in charge of medical care at Guantanamo Bay.

The complaints against Capt. John S. Edmondson, who is licensed by California to practice medicine, allege that he engaged in unprofessional conduct" by running a system in which confidential medical records were shared with interrogators, access to medical care was made contingent on cooperation and medical staff participated in abuse of prisoners.
Those complaints were eventually dismissed by the Board for lack of evidence and lack of jurisdiction.

Candis Cohen, spokeswoman for the medical board, said, "The board has reviewed and closed this complaint because no evidence was found by the [army] surgeon general of medical mistreatment of the patients. Therefore the medical board cannot take any action because we have no jurisdiction to take action against a military physician practising on a military base, absent an action first by the military itself."
Now, the problem with that is, the "investigation" was conducted by a military team which relied solely on questionnaires addressed to the medical personnel involved. This "investigation" was reviewed and approved by the army's surgeon general, and then accepted by the California Medical Board.

Rather difficult to say there was ever a "neutral decisionmaker" involved in any of those steps, isn't it? But wait, there's more.

Detainees allege that medical personnel were directly involved in their interrogation:

"He was regulating the process of the beating," Sarim said of the clinician, according to interviews conducted with detainees by the international law firm Allen & Overy. "This nurse who is regulating the beating process, he is the same person that was distributing medicine previously."

Another Yemeni detainee, Abdulaziz Al-Swidi, also told interviewers he observed nurses participating in beatings during interrogations at Guantánamo.

"The nurse participated with the riot squad by helping putting something in my nose to make me unable to breathe, and this is the same nurse that dispenses medicine and makes diagnoses," he said.
These allegations are not just coming from the detainees; the Red Cross has voiced its concern as well:

In October 2003 an independent, confidential investigation by the International Committee of the Red Cross found that the military used psychological and physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on Guantánamo prisoners, and that medical personnel participated in planning interrogations.

The Red Cross report, which was quoted in a Department of Defense memorandum and by a handful of news agencies that obtained it, called this "a flagrant violation of medical ethics." It said medical information was conveyed to interrogators both directly by medical staff and through the Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT, or "biscuit"), a group of psychologists and psychiatrists assigned to work with interrogators.

The Red Cross, which did not return a request to comment for this story, reported at the time that "medical files are being used by interrogators to gain information in developing an interrogation plan," which is "a breach of confidentiality between physician and patient."
Which puts the lie to the government's claim that it cannot reveal the names of the detainees because that disclosure would be a breach of their privacy.

And then, of course, there is the matter of the force-feedings of detainees, which violates Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration. Those force-feedings have prompted another ethics complaint to the California Medical Board, but I can find no word on whether a decision on that complaint has been reached. (an excerpt from Chaplain James Yee's book describing the practice of inserting naso-gastric tubes into detainees, can be found here. Yee describes many of the strikers as depressed, rather than defiant.) And, of course, Bush has signed into law a statute removing the right of habeas corpus which the Hamdi decision (the one Bush is otherwise relying on now) recognized for the detainees.

Can we possibly get more monstrous? Can we possibly trample any more ethics in our stampede to...what? Be safe? Be powerful? Be in control?

I honestly don't know what the point is, anymore.

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