Medical professionals complicit in Abu Ghraib torture, says bioethicist

Dr. Stephen Miles wrote a scathing editorial for UK medical journal The Lancet which says that U.S. military medical personnel were complicit in detainee torture incidents that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to the University of Minnesota bioethicist, "The US military medical system failed to protect detainees' human rights, sometimes collaborated with interrogators or abusive guards, and failed to properly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings." Based on data gleaned from government documents, he details cases of alleged abuse participation by medical personnel, and calls for a formal inquiry.
There are isolated reports that medical personnel directly abused detainees. Two detainees' depositions describe an incident where a doctor allowed a medically untrained guard to suture a prisoner's lacertation from being beaten. The medical system failed to accurately report illnesses and injuries. Abu Ghraib authorities did not notify families of deaths, sicknesses, or transfers to medical facilities as required by the Convention. A medic inserted a intravenous catheter into the corpse of a detainee who died under torture in order to create evidence that he was alive at the hospital. In another case, an Iraqi man, taken into custody by US soldiers was found months later by his family in an Iraqi hospital. He was comatose, had three skull fractures, a severe thumb fracture, and burns on the bottoms of his feet. An accompanying US medical report stated that heat stroke had triggered a heart attack that put him in a coma; it did not mention the injuries.

Death certificates of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq were falsified or their release or completion was delayed for months. Medical investigators either failed to investigate unexpected deaths of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan or performed cursory evaluations and physicians routinely attributed detainee deaths on death certificates to heart attacks, heat stroke, or natural causes without noting the unnatural aetiology of the death. In one example, soldiers tied a beaten detainee to the top of his cell door and gagged him. The death certificate indicated that he died of "natural causes . . . during his sleep." After news media coverage, the Pentagon revised the certificate to say that the death was a "homicide" caused by "blunt force injuries and asphyxia."

Link to Miles' editorial in the August 21 edition of The Lancet (registration required; o bugmenot, where foreart thou?). Link to Washington Post story with partial synopsis of the report. Link to Miles' home page at the University of Minnesota Bioethics school, and Link to his latest book, The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine, which looks like a worthy read.