Human Rights Issue Update: Doctors Committing War Crimes? - HeadCount

Human Rights Issue Update: Doctors Committing War Crimes?

Greetings from the tour. This update comes to you from the McDonald's across the street from where Phish will be performing tonight! As Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski reminded us, my ability to write to you from this family restaurant would not be possible without the selfless work of the U.S. military. However,serious questions are now being raised about whether doctors working for the United States have violated their sacred oath and gone over the line in prosecuting the war on terror.

  • Consider the following passage from a recent report issued last week by the advocacy group, Physicians for Human Rights: "The Bush Administration, in the period after September 11, conducted human research and experimentation on prisoners in U.S. custody…such acts may be seen as the conduct of research and experimentation by health professionals on prisoners, which could violate accepted standards of medical ethics, as well as domestic and international law. These practices could, in some cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."
  • If nothing else, the disclosure of research on human subjects conjures images of past human experimentation by our government. Many of you may be familiar with videos like this that detail the CIA's experimentation with LSD as an interrogation and mind control tool, and perhaps most famously, the government's egregious Tuskegee Experiments, in which poor African American males were denied treatment for syphilis in order to learn more about the natural progression when the disease goes untreated.
  • However, instead of visuals and euphoria or burning STDs, the Bush Administration's human subject experiments took on a much darker dimension. The report itself details some pretty rough stuff: tests on how to waterboard in the most pain-intensive but non-lethal manner and sleep deprivation experiments that lasted for as long as 180 hours (that's seven and a half days, y'all). In recent days, George W. Bush has backtracked on his "the United States does not torture" message, admitting in a speech in Grand Rapids, MI that he would waterboard enemy combatants again.
  • No one expects apologies from members of the Bush administration for what many view as human rights violations. But will our current elected officials take measures to make amends? Calls for investigations and an official response from the Obama administration have largely gone unheeded. On the local level there has been some small but meaningful action. New York State Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and State Senator Tom Duane - the same team of Westside Manhattan politicians that are sponsoring New York's pending medical marijuana bills - have made headlines by introducing first-of-its-kind legislation that will prohibit New York doctors from participating in torture.

You can get involved by writing to President Obama about your concerns about torture, writing to New York State legislators to encourage the passage of the Gottfried/Duane bill. Or, keep abreast of these and other human rights issues on the HeadCount blog and by following HeadCount on Twitter.

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