Updated 12 December 2014

CIA #TortureReport an indictment on medical professionals

Doctors take an oath to help people, but what happens when they don't? The answer can be found in the gruelling revelations of the CIA torture report.


The medical profession was deeply embedded in developing the horrific interrogation tactics used by the US CIA to mete out insufferable pain on people, according to a top surgeon.

Blistering attack

Atul Gawande, an American surgeon, author and public health researcher, launched a blistering attack on clinicians for helping the CIA to torture people.

He expressed outrage in a series of tweets at the role of medical professionals, who have "sworn to aid human beings", in assisting the CIA to inflict pain on people.

This followed a report titled the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Intelligence Programme. It reveals some chilling details on the torture methods used by the CIA in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

Read: CIA report: 6 shocking torture methods exposed

One of the tactics used was rectal feeding and Gwada says it was it was doctors who devised this “as a means of behaviour control”.

At least five captives were subjected to rectal feeding and in one case a suspect’s meal, consisting of "hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was pureed and rectally infused".

The report also alleges one man was waterboarded on at least 183 separate occasions. Waterboarding entails covering the face of the captive with a cloth before pouring water over their mouth and nose. This simulates the feeling of drowning, causing acute psychological distress.

"Doctors suggested the water temperature for waterboarding and use of saline instead of free water to avoid water intoxication," tweeted Gawande.

Here are his 12 tweets referring to doctors in the report:

Why doctors torture

The journal Torture, published a study in 2008 that found that both torture survivors and doctors confirmed that doctors are involved in torture.

"Dual loyalty, political initiatives and lack of training in human rights issues are important reasons why doctors participate in torture."

The study indicated that doctors are primarily involved in the diagnosis or medical examination of torture survivors or prisoners, including in treatment, direct participation and falsification of journals, certificates and reports.

You can read the full report here.

Senate torture report

Read more:

Most will torture if ordered
10 things you didn't know about torture
Executions increasingly viewed as torture

Image of a chained person from Shutterstock


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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