Physicians reminded of their ethical Obligations in Relation to Torture and Interrogation

(15.05.2009) Physicians have been strongly reminded by the World Medical Association that they are prohibited from participating in or even being present during the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures.

In a resolution today at its Council meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, the WMA reaffirmed its previous policy declarations and approved a resolution saying that ‘reports worldwide have alluded to deeply unsettling practices by health professionals, including direct participation in the infliction of ill-treatment, monitoring specific methods of ill-treatment and participation in interrogation processes’.

The resolution reiterated WMA guidelines in the Declaration of Tokyo prohibiting physicians from participating in, or even being present during, the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures and urged national medical associations to inform physicians and governments of the Declaration and its contents.

It reaffirmed WMA policy in the Declaration of Hamburg supporting doctors who refused to participate in or condone the use of torture or other forms of cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment.

The resolution also reiterated policy on the responsibility of physicians to denounce acts of torture or cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment of which they were aware and it urged national medical associations to speak out in support of these fundamental principle of medical ethics and to investigate any breach of these principles by their members of which they were aware.

Dr. Edward Hill, Chair of the WMA, said: ‘It is quite clear that any involvement by physicians in torture is fundamentally incompatible with their role as healers. It violates the essential ethical obligations on all physicians to “first do no harm” and to respect human dignity. As the world’s largest association of physicians and the voice of the medical profession, the WMA will work to ensure that these core principles guide physicians worldwide.’