Bioethics Blogs

Modern Day Mengeles

“No power in the world will make us deny our duty, or forget even for a moment our historical task of maintaining the freedom of our people.”

— Joseph Goebbels

“These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it’s way off base.”

— Former President George W. Bush (in response to the Senate’s CIA report)


The role of psychologists and physicians in the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture program is one of the most concerning and disturbing aspects of the 2014 U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The New York Times recently published a strong editorial demanding that those health care professionals lose their licenses and be prosecuted. In a comprehensive review and call to action, Physicians for Human Rights detailed each instance of abuse by health care professionals, noting that “the health professionals who participated in the CIA torture program violated core ethical principles common to the healing professions.”

But it’s worse than that. Not only did the medical officers and contractors at the CIA violate the Nuremburg Code and other codes of international medical ethics, but their actions were also eerily similar to the behavior of Nazi doctors.

The CIA’s actions share four main qualities with those of the Nazi doctors: 1) they experimented on their detainees, 2) they perverted medical procedures, turning them into rape and torture, 3) they induced diseases in their detainees, and 4) they provided necessary medical care in order to enable future torture.

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.