In times of war, medical practitioners are regularly asked to perform illegal acts. Most refuse. Some, tragically, do not:
The Australian Psychological Society (APS) recently announced its position on members’ involvement in the use, participation or provision of advice about torture and other injurious practices. Unlike their American counterparts, Australian psychologists have rejected any involvement in torture or other forms of cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment.
The difference was seen in September 2007, when the former president of the American Psychological Association (APA), Professor Gerald Koocher, was invited to the APS Annual Conference to air the issue with Australian psychologists. Earlier, Professor Koocher had convened a panel of United States psychologists to develop their policy which was adopted by a majority of APA Members’ votes in 2005-6. Of course, the APA condemned torture, but its leadership refused to accept the rulings of International Law as to what constituted torturous acts. “We are not going to be subjected to rulings by foreign courts” said Professor Koocher when pressed about the issue at the APS Conference.
Due to this position taken by the APA, torturous practices such as those shown in the widely circulated pictures from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, are developed and supervised by some United States psychologists. Indeed, these specific pictures taken of “detainees” being interrogated by staff were directed by United States psychologists at the time.
The history of the Bush administration and its use and abuse of the medical profession – mostly willingly, so it seems – will be a sordid part of recent history.