Bioethics Blogs

The CIA Torture Report: Health, Medicine & Ethics in CIA Torture

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

On Tuesday, December 9, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on intelligence released its long awaited report on CIA interrogation and torture. This 500-page executive summary details the results of six years of investigations that covered over 6 million pages of records. What was discovered is that torture was more brutal and extensive than reported, that information was kept secret, that the programs were mismanaged and lacked oversight, and that most likely no information came out of it.

Anyone wishing to read the report can find it here. The length and detail of the document, not to mention its graphic content, make it difficult to go through. A search function, however, allows a reader to look for particular terms.

The word “doctor” brings up 4 listings. In one listing, a detainee (euphemism for a “victim of torture”) was refused a physician visit for pain. In a second, a doctor was asked about edema caused by “standing sleep deprivation” and responded that all that was necessary was to “adjust shackles or [the] method of applying the technique.” The other two detailed physicians depreciating the problems of water boarding and producing pain.

The term “physician” brings up four instances of “physician assistant.” This includes a PA recommending a detainee with a broken foot avoid bearing weight “for a couple of weeks” after a medical officer had said “5 weeks.” Another PA diagnosed gastrointestinal upset as caused by contaminated food and water.

“Medical” is found on 83 pages (though “medicine” is not found at all). On the positive side, there are references to medical personnel questioning interrogation techniques both based on their lack of effectiveness and safety.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.