Institutional support for prisoner abuse is a stain on medical ethics

08/03/05

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday August 5, 2005. In North America the embargo lifts at 6:30pm ET Thursday August 4, 2005.

The direct or indirect participation of doctors and medical bodies in the abuse of prisoners is a stain on medical ethics, states a comment in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

The involvement of doctors in torture and the abuse of prisoners' human rights has been well documented over the past few decades. The fact that this participation has persisted and remained unchallenged is disturbing, writes Michael Wilks (Chairman, Medical Ethics Committee, British Medical Association, UK). Wilks demonstrates how both governmental and medical bodies in the USA have even begun adjusting and blurring their ethical guidance, titling themselves towards endorsement of gross ethical malpractice. He outlines a number of actions that should be taken in light of this institutional support for abuse, including reversal of the assault, led by the USA and UK on international bodies, such as the United Nations.

Dr Wilks comments: "The involvement of doctors in the direct or indirect abuse of prisoners is not just a stain on medical ethics. By abandoning our principles, we add fuel to the fires of distrust and despair, and increase the risk to us all, as the recent outrages in London demonstrate."

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