Tag Archives | Medical Ethics

“It is Indisputable that the United States Engaged in the Practice of Torture”

Still from "Doctors of the Dark Side"

Still from “Doctors of the Dark Side”

For those who have any doubt that the United States government has sanctioned the use of torture in recent years, Ritika Singh, a research assistant at the Brookings Institution, reports for Lawfare that,

The Constitution Project has released the results of its Task Force on Detainee Treatment in the form of this 577-page report—which concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that “the nation’s highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of torture.”

The people who create and run the torture programs are oftentimes doctors, as depicted in the new documentary Doctors of the Dark Side.

Lawfare provides the Statement of the Task Force:

This report of The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is the result of almost two years of intensive study, investigation and deliberation.

The project was undertaken with the belief that it was important to provide an accurate and authoritative account of how the United States treated people its forces held in custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.

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Guantanamo Hunger Striker Tells His Story

SamirThis may be the most important report out of Gitmo ever. If it doesn’t cause Americans to seriously question the indefinite detention of prisoners without trial, what will? (Not to mention the brutal “medical” treatment at the hands of American doctors.) Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay since 2002, told this story to his lawyers at the legal charity Reprieve in an unclassified telephone call (in Arabic, translated to English):

One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here.

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Guantanamo Detainees Brutally Force Fed During Hunger Strike

Forced feeding (still from 'Doctors of the Dark Side')

Up to 130 of the 166 detainees left in Guantanamo are reported to be taking part in a hunger strike with at least 11 being force fed (see also this piece by Chris Hayes at MSNBC).

What is not widely reported is the brutal way that detainees have been force fed by the Guantanamo medical staff, a protocol that appears to be in use now.

As detainee lawyer Ramzi Kassen explains in Doctors of the Dark Side, detainees are strapped in a 5-point restraint chair–dubbed by some detainees the “torture” chair–and large tubes that may be left in for days are jammed down their noses without anesthesia or lubricants. When detainees resist the brutal procedure, they are forcibly extracted from their cells by soldiers in full riot gear at the direction of the medical staff.

Lawyers for the despairing detainees, of whom 86 were approved for release over two years ago, are very worried that their clients will die or be permanently injured in the hunger strike.… Read the rest

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Being A Guinea Pig

Guinea pig injectionI’m getting ready to go to the bank and cash my check and have so many hundred dollar bills that I won’t be able to close my wallet. So what have a been doing for the
last 11 days?

Just hanging out in a dorm like setting, listening to music, browsing the internet. Checking out DVD’s, playing a little pool(which I suck at) a little ping pong. Flirting with nurses.

I am a human Guinea pig. I am being paid to participate in a clinical research trial as a test subject. I’d love to tell you that I am now hallucinating, drooling, talking to myself and covered with hives from all the adverse side effects,but that’s actually not the case.

I feel really good and well rested actually. I’ve had no stress and plenty of time to catch up on my sleep and then some. Its so easy it seems like it must be some kind of scam.… Read the rest

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California Doctors Banned For Unauthorized Human Experiments

Shades of Nazi Germany? Alyssa Newcomb reports for ABC News:
Two University of California at Davis surgeons have been banned from doing human research after they injected bacteria into the head wounds of consenting terminally ill patients without university authorization, according to a letter sent from the school to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The university ordered Drs. J. Paul Muizelaar and Rudolph J. Schrot to immediately "cease and desist" doing the procedure last fall, according to the letter, dated Oct. 17, 2011, obtained by the Sacramento Bee. Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has ordered a review into the actions of Muizelaar, who is chairman of the department of neurological surgery at UC Davis, and Schrot, an assistant professor...
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Spanish Blood Test Can Tell When You’ll Die. Maybe.

Three-dimensional molecular structure of a telomere (G-quadruplex). Credit: Giac83 (CC)

Three-dimensional molecular structure of a telomere (G-quadruplex). Credit: Giac83 (CC)

But do you really want to know? Giles Tremlett reports on the small Spanish biological research company at the center of claims that its blood test can predict the age you will die, for the Guardian:

As a taxi takes me across Madrid to the laboratories of Spain’s National Cancer Research Centre, I am fretting about the future. I am one of the first people in the world to provide a blood sample for a new test, which has been variously described as a predictor of how long I will live, a waste of time or a handy indicator of how well (or badly) my body is ageing. Today I get the results.

Some newspapers, to the dismay of the scientists involved, have gleefully announced that the test – which measures the telomeres (the protective caps on the ends of my chromosomes) – can predict when I will die.

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‘Circumcision Is Barbaric And Stupid’

Photo: dbking (CC)

Photo: dbking (CC)

Well that’s Russell Crowe’s opinion, anyway. IOL Scitech reports from the battlefront over circumcision in the United States:

In the United States, a vocal movement of “intactivists,” or people who oppose male circumcision, is engaged in a fierce debate with doctors over the practice of clipping baby boys’ foreskins.

Actor Russell Crowe may be the most famous of them. Earlier this year he declared on Twitter: “Circumcision is barbaric and stupid,” before swiftly tweeting sorry to anyone who thought he was “mocking the rituals and traditions of others.”

Over the weekend, California’s governor blocked a bid by opponents of circumcision to have voters decide if local governments could make it a crime for doctors to perform the procedure unless medically necessary.

But the movement has vowed to keep fighting against a medical practice that is done to about 57 percent of American boys – down from more than 80 percent in the 1980s according to US health authorities – yet remains rare in most of Europe, Asia and Latin America.

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U.S. Reviews Syphilis Experiment In Guatemala: Researchers Knew It Was Unethical

Tuskeegee_studyAll too often groups of people are unknowingly infected with disease as a means of isolated experimentation. Earlier this week the Commision for the Study of Bioethical Issues reviewed the 1940s incident  where the U.S. government infected Guatemalan prisoners and patients with syphilis. Via Reuters:

U.S. government researchers must have known they were violating ethical standards by deliberately infecting Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with syphilis for an experiment in the 1940s, according to a U.S. presidential commission.

The U.S.-funded research in Guatemala did not treat participants as human beings, failing to even inform them they were taking part in research, as was the case for a similar study in the United States, the commission said on Monday.

The United States apologized last year for the experiment, which was meant to test the drug penicillin, after it was uncovered decades later by a college professor.

President Barack Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues investigated the syphilis experiment and discussed its key findings in Washington on Monday.

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Venezuelan Inmates Take 22 Hostages Including Prison Director

Miranda State, Venezuela. Photo: Wilfredo R. Rodríguez H.(CC)

Miranda State, Venezuela. Photo: Wilfredo R. Rodríguez H.(CC)

In an effort to bring attention to the outbreak of tuberculosis in El Rodeo II prison, inmates are holding officials hostage. Prisoners are hoping such actions are a loud enough shout for help to have medical teams sent in to examine them. BBC reports:

Inmates at a jail in Venezuela have taken the prison director and 21 other officials hostage in an effort to draw attention to an alleged tuberculosis outbreak.

The prisoners at El Rodeo II prison in Guatire in Miranda state are demanding a medical team be sent into the jail to deal with the alleged outbreak.

The government denies there is a tuberculosis outbreak.

Officials say they will not negotiate until the inmates release the hostages.

Deputy Interior Minister Edwin Rojas said holding the officials hostage was “not the most adequate way [for the inmates] to proceed to make their grievances known”.

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Horrific Medical Experiments On Prisoners And Mental Patients In U.S.

Dr. Jonas Salk, who led one of the studies.

Dr. Jonas Salk, who led one of the studies.

You really want to believe that America would be above this sort of thing, but I suppose for a nation that imported human vivisection experts from Nazi Germany after WW2, trying out dubious medical procedures on its own citizens should not be too much of a surprise. The broad scope of the experiments might be though: Mike Stobbe reports on a review by AP of over 40 medical “studies”:

Shocking as it may seem, U.S. government doctors once thought it was fine to experiment on disabled people and prison inmates. Such experiments included giving hepatitis to mental patients in Connecticut, squirting a pandemic flu virus up the noses of prisoners in Maryland, and injecting cancer cells into chronically ill people at a New York hospital.

Much of this horrific history is 40 to 80 years old, but it is the backdrop for a meeting in Washington this week by a presidential bioethics commission.

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