Silence among doctors in the face of torture

Miles
Miles

Even as FBI agents and intelligence officers were warning their superiors that interrogations of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba had gone terribly wrong, military doctors and nurses remained silent. “I have reviewed 14,000 pages of documents and can find only two instances of health care professionals trying to stop this abuse,” said Steven H. Miles, M.D., director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, in a talk at medical grand rounds in March.

Those whose duty it was to see to the well-being of prisoners, he said, often failed: They provided inadequate health care. They supplied confidential medical data to interrogators and oversaw coercive interrogations. They filed false reports to cover up torture. And they failed to report abuses.

“I think we can look at the failure in two ways,” Miles said. “There was a policy environment going down the chain of command authorizing the abuse. And there was a failure of accountability going up.”