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November 12, 2005

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what are you two doing up at this hour?

thanks for an utterly heartbreaking post.

anyone remember the movie "Marathon Man"? Lawrence Olivier plays a nazi dentist who uses his knowledge of dentistry to torture Dustin Hoffman. (ok, this post is a godwin violation. so i lose.)

how can it be that we have sunk so low that american doctors are using their medical training in the service of torture?

we have truly become that which we abhor.

I used to admire your country. I hope I will again. This is beyond obscene.

Keep up the good fight people.

The doctors involved are clearly violating medical ethics and should, at minimum, have their licenses revoked for deliberate, prolonged, and repeated breaking of the Hippocratic oath. That's in addition to civil and criminal penalties they should receive for behaving in a manner not consistent with being a decent human being.

BRGORD: There's a book titled (I think) "The Nazi Doctors" which discusses the role of medical personnel in KZ in detail. It's a frightening book, the moreso for being matter of fact about it. I recommend it if your interested in learning more about the psychology of misuse of medicine.

Perhaps now would be a good time to read The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo. Seems appropriate.

"Lawrence Olivier plays a nazi dentist who uses his knowledge of dentistry to torture Dustin Hoffman."

If I might possibly be excused for a frivolous digression (I do blog rather a lot about torture issues, after all), I always thought that was a bit of genius by Goldman. After all, most people know that, secretly, their demtist actually is a Nazi torturer, if only truth be found out and told. Playing on that fear was brilliant.

(Also, we got the famous anecdote about Dustin Hoffman running around the block many times before a scene, so as to properly produce by the Method the required degree of exhaustion, since his character had been running all night; Olivier supposedly asked him what he was doing, and Hoffman explained; Olivier supposedly replied "my dear boy, why don't you try acting?") (A version of Hoffman's version is here.)

What were we doing up so late? In my case at least, being furious.

I think Sen Graham's snide "malpractice" reference is probably not to the abuses you mention, which are awful enough certainly, but rather to the recent complaints by detainees' counsel that GTMO doctors were inserting feeding tubes into the noses and esophagi of hunger strikers without using the medically indicated muscle relaxers or local anesthetics.

Peter G: actually, at least one of the malpractice claims is on behalf of this detainee:

"An Egyptian-born teacher imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the past 3 1/2 years recently convinced the U.S. military that he is not an enemy combatant, but rather what he said he was: a pro-democracy English teacher swept up when the military seized fighters and suspected terrorists from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

In newly declassified records of statements to his attorney, Sami Al-Laithi said that as a result of his detention at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, he is now confined to a wheelchair with two broken vertebrae. He said military personnel and interrogators stomped on his back, dropped him on the floor and repeatedly forced his neck forward soon after his arrival at the prison."

More details shortly.

Note that Al-Laithi is no longer at Guantanamo--he was sent to Egypt. Fortunately he was taken to a hospital in Egypt rather than being imprisoned as was feared.

Katherine: I don't understand your response. The mistreatment of al Laithi you describe was surely unlawful and could qualify as torture, but unless it has to do with how medical personnel treated or failed to treat his injuries after they were inflicted, it is not something that could be called "malpractice." Here's an October 20, 2005, AP story on the accusations that I referenced, btw.

That was a response to hilzoy, not you--but al-Laithi did file a malpractice claim. A post clarifying this will be up shortly. You're right that some of the suits are also about the hunger strike stuff.

Sorry; forgot the crucial third para. from the article, about his being denied an operation needed to save him from paralysis. It's in the new post.

There's a book titled (I think) "The Nazi Doctors" which discusses the role of medical personnel in KZ in detail. It's a frightening book, the moreso for being matter of fact about it. I recommend it if your interested in learning more about the psychology of misuse of medicine.

Dainne, I belive that the classic work on the subject is Alexander Mitscherlich & Fred Mielke's Doctors of Infamy - the Story of the Nazi Medical Crimes from 1949, but you might be thinking of Robert J. Lifton's The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide from 1986, which is also regarded as a key work on the subject.

How close to Josef Mengele's practices does this need to become before we make the obvious comparisons? Forget the Hypocratic oath and all that, where are they finding health care professionals who'll go along with this? This is so nightmarish:

military medical personnel have played a role in this abuse and by new military ethical guidelines that in effect authorize complicity by health professionals in ill-treatment of detainees

I want to wake up now. Please.

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