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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: October 2009

44 - Physician participation in torture

Summary

Hours after a bomb kills 23 people in a busy marketplace, state armed forces arrest a suspect. Dr. A, a state physician, is summoned to the city's detention facilities. When he arrives, he finds the suspect unconscious and covered in blood from severe beatings inflicting by the security forces. He is asked to resuscitate the patient for further interrogation. Angered at the bombing, Dr. A complies. Shortly thereafter, in an attempt by detaining authorities to extract information from the detainee, Dr. A is asked to administer sodium pentothal (also known as “truth serum”) to the detainee. Before doing so, the suspect dies from his injuries sustained from the beatings. The detaining authorities instruct Dr. A to record the death as a suicide, which he does. Later, Dr. A wonders whether his actions and silence in the matter makes him complicit in the torture and subsequent cover-up of the incident. He is also uncertain whether he is obliged to act in the best interests of his employer (the state), himself, or his patient in such instances.

Dr. B, a psychiatrist in a detention center, is informed by one of her patients that he has not been charged or tried for any crime since his detention months earlier. In addition, he is regularly shackled and held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods, made to stand in awkward positions for hours on end, and deprived of sleep by the detaining authorities. Dr. B is unsure what to do with this information. […]

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