US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Doctors don't torture

By Marie Dennis | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Evidence of medical doctors participating in torture has prompted protests among Catholics.

One of the basic tenets of the Catholic faith is that every human life is unique and precious, to be respected and protected by each of us and by society as a whole. We assume that medical doctors and others who have given their lives to the healing profession do exactly that - respect and protect life. Our tradition's absolute rejection of torture is rooted in the belief that torture violates this basic human dignity, not only the dignity of the person being tortured, but also that of the torturer.

So a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights (Experiments in Torture, June 2010), which provides evidence of medical complicity in torture and participation in research and experimentation on detainees in US custody, ought to provoke an outcry from the Catholic community.

The PHR report uncovered evidence that the CIA's alleged experimentation and research appear to have been performed to provide legal cover for torture, as well as to help justify and shape future procedures and policies governing the use of the "enhanced" interrogation techniques.

Rightfully, Catholic organizations, including the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), other communities of faith and thousands of individuals in filing a formal complaint with the Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

We called for an investigation into allegations of these illegal and unethical experiments, but DHHS declined to assert jurisdiction and forwarded the complaint to the CIA, which had already denied the allegations. Now we are urging President Obama to ensure an independent, thorough, and open investigation, and we want the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to do the same.

Allegations that the CIA used forced human experimentation to legally justify and hone its torture techniques raise serious questions of potential additional legal liability for the CIA and Bush-era officials. The credibility of the United States as a proponent of basic human rights and the rule of law requires a thorough inquiry and a willingness to prosecute if appropriate. Impunity perpetuates criminal behavior.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.