The Huffington Post “How It Is: Psychiatrists, Physicians, and Torture”

As for the psychiatrists, they are a different kettle of fish completely. Any trained psychiatrist is aware that terror is as much torture as physical harm, and any psychiatrist who knows the history of his discipline also knows that terror has been used against the insane as a cock-and-bull “cure” since at least the Middle Ages. I suspect the design of torture techniques used at Guantanamo (techniques known or still unknown to us) came from psychiatrists, and if that’s true, it’s the psychiatrists who should bear the full brunt of public condemnation.

Dan Agin
Huffington Post
April 22, 2009

Our current troubles with torture by agencies of our government, and the shock of many that medical doctors stood by or even assisted in such torture, will be with us for a while. There is never too much of knowledge, and usually too little of knowledge of the past, and our present time is apparently an illustration of our public failings.

To be clear about my own views, the publicized recent physical and psychological stresses used in the interrogation of prisoners in American hands, from the perspective of medicine, neuroscience, and psychiatry, were indeed torture. Various legal minds apparently twisted the meanings of words and phrases into knots in their attempts to provide cover for the use of terror in interrogations, but my guess is they and everyone around them knew the truth. And now various media hacks sound the same corrupted chant, more out of foolishness than any reasoned argument. It’s an ugly dance, a jig that reminds one of a crazy gavotte in Bedlam.

Maybe the saddest cut of all is that we’ve been here before. Too many people are bemused by the illusion that physicians are incapable of standing by or assisting in the mechanics of torture. Maybe most are, but to say that all are is a public lie — and how many psychiatrists and internist physicians do you need to help turn the rack or rip at the mind with terror? Not many. For the few hundred prisoners at a place like Guantanamo, a handful of assisting psychiatrists and internists would be sufficient, both psychiatrists and internists already on the agency payroll and committed to agency operations.

Physicians of various kinds have always been involved in government interrogations. and it’s a bit silly to pretend otherwise.

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