Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Interrogators Cite Doctors' Aid at Guantánamo Prison Camp

Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams, which advise interrogators. "

Their purpose was to help us break them," one former interrogator told The Times earlier this year. The interrogator said in a more recent interview that a biscuit team doctor, having read the medical file of a detainee, suggested that the inmate's longing for his mother could be exploited to persuade him to cooperate. Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and former Army brigadier general in the medical corps, said in an interview that "this behavior is not consistent with our medical responsibility or any of the codes that guide our conduct as doctors."

The use of psychologists and psychiatrists in interrogations prompted the Pentagon to issue a policy statement last week that officials said was supposed to ensure that doctors did not participate in unethical behavior. While the American Psychiatric Association has guidelines that specifically prohibit the kinds of behaviors described by the former interrogators for their members who are medical doctors, the rules for psychologists are less clear.

Dr. Spencer Eth, a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and chairman of the ethics committee of the American Psychiatric Association, said in an interview that there was no way that psychiatrists at Guantánamo could ethically counsel interrogators on ways to increase distress on detainees.

But in a statement issued in December, the American Psychological Association said the issue of involvement of its members in "national security endeavors" was new. Dr. Stephen Behnke, who heads the group's ethics division, said in an interview this week that a committee of 10 members, including some from the military, was meeting in Washington this weekend to discuss the issue.

Dr. Behnke emphasized that the codes did not necessarily allow participation by psychologists in such roles, but rather that the issue had not been dealt with directly before. "A question has arisen that we in the profession have to address and that is where we are now: is it ethical or is it not ethical?" he said.
I recall firing off an e-mail to the American Psychological about a year ago asking them for the APA's stance on the participation of psychologists at Gitmo; I received no reply (I'm a member). The APA goes on the record acknowledging there's an issue to be dealt with...last December. So nice of Dr. Behnke and his colleagues to get around to addressing the issue in a timely manner.

Oh, and just in case the committee thinks this is a real brain-teaser:

Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons, and the welfare of animal subjects of research. When conflicts occur among psychologists' obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve these conflicts in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm. Because psychologists' scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence. Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall firing off an e-mail to the American Psychological about a year ago asking them for the APA's stance on the participation of psychologists at Gitmo; I received no reply (I'm a member).

here's your reply:
you're an asshole

2:57 PM  

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