Friday, October 26, 2007

Justice vs. jihadis

On page B5 of today's WSJ: a blurb from the Nov. 5 Time on a subject quite pertinent to me: ethics. It seems that civilian doctors don't know the Geneva Convention's catechism. According to Dr. J. Wesley Boyd of the Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, many med schools spend "less than an hour" on the Geneva Convention and its rules on torture. As a result, many non-armed-forces-trained doctors said they would willingly do such things as "threaten to inject a detainee with a psychotropic drug without intending to" or "inject a harmless saline solution into a detainee while saying it was lethal," both of which are prohibited by the Convention.

Yes, the Geneva Convention prohibits these kinds of "torture." And I do agree that they are (mostly) in line with my understanding of the Hippocratic Oath. And I do agree that each human, having been made by God, has rights to life and happiness. But this is a time of war. Why do we let our enemies go contrary to the same Convention that prevents us from obtaining potentially valuable information to save the lives of some of our troops? Does anyone see inconsistency here?

3 comments:

jwboyd said...

The US was a signatory of the Geneva Conventions (GC) to ensure that the atrocities of the NAzis were never again repeated by any culture that considers itself civilzed.

Honor the GC are you're civilized.

Rebuke the GC--like the US is doing constantly in our treatment of prisoners--and you side with Nazis.

Saying that our enemy mistreats prisoners so we should too sounds to me like you want to act like al Qaeda. Very un-American, to my ear.

Jerry Falwell in 2001 said that NYC was bombed on September 11 because it was a center of debauchery, essentially claiming that al Qaida was doing God's work. Do you want to go there in reverse?

Specifically with regard to physicians . . . MDs should preserve health, period. This means they should never, ever participate or cooperate with torture and need to speak out against anything that endangers health.

The World Med Assoc affirmed this in 1975 and recently reaffirmed it.

J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD

Hannah J said...

Jwboyd,

Good comment. I see this position quite often. However, I do think that torture is warranted in certain cases. Here is the text of a letter concerning that article from today's Wall Street Journal:

"The debate over torture, as described by Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, is getting puerile. If a suspect knows where a nuclear bomb is ticking in Manhattan, every civilized person understands that the moral imperative is to pull his fingernails out with a wrench in order to save the lives of millions of people. Can one imagine anyone pleading with the interrogator -- please, please don't waterboard him and make him feel like he's drowning? Let's all say this openly and without reservation or qualms, and then, maybe, we can have an intelligent discussion about when and how it is permissible to torture terrorists.

Ari W.
New York"

jwboyd said...

For those who condone torture, I forgot one minor detail:

As an interrogation tool, it's ineffective.

The purpose of torture is to dominate and humiliate, not to obtain information. Those being tortured will say whatever they think their torturers want to hear.

J. Wesley Boyd, MD,PhD