Doctors Without Scruples / Foreign Policy

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 8.11.09 AMHigh-ranking al Qaeda official Abu Zubaydah had apparently, at one point in his 12-year imprisonment by the United States, refused to drink fluids — or at least “partially” refused — according to the Senate report on CIA torture. That refusal, however limited it may have been, led to a tube containing a nutrient enema being inserted into his rectum. Zubaydah was hung with his head lower than his torso and gravity forced the flow of whatever was in the tube into his colon. At least one doctor was present to observe the situation.

doctors have also expressed horror at the invocation of “medicine” in torture techniques — and at their fellow doctors’ involvement in these methods. In a statement released Friday, the American Medical Association called this involvement “a violation of core ethical values.”

According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has a new report out Tuesday on doctors’ roles in the U.S. torture program, “rectal feeding,” as it is called, was done to Zubaydah, Khan and other detainees as a form of sexual assault and punishment.

More broadly, the medical professionals involved in the program made a conscious decision, PHR says, to actively participate in torture: “designing, directing, and profiting from the torture program; intentionally inflicting harm on detainees; enabling U.S. Department of Justice lawyers to create a fiction of ‘safe, legal and effective’ interrogation practices; engaging in potential human subjects research to provide legal cover for torture; monitoring torture and calibrating the level of pain; evaluating and treating detainees for the purposes of torture; conditioning medical care on cooperation with interrogators; and failing to document physical and/or psychological evidence of torture.”

The main thing is to see that this operation was in the hands of medical professionals from beginning to end,” says psychologist Steven Reisner, one of the authors of the report.

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