Guantanamo Doctors Fail to Document Torture

 PLOS Medicine by Vincent Iacopino and Stephen N. Xenakis: Neglect of Medical Evidence of Torture in Guantánamo Bay: A Case Series. Iacopino and Xenakis report on their examination of the medical records and reports by independent medical and psychological consultants on nine Guantanamo prisoners. They find that, despite strong evidence that the prisoners were subjected to torture, the health professionals examining and treating them made no attempt to determine if the prisoners had been abused and failed in their ethical (and military) duty to document and report torture and ill treatment.

[12]. In one case, unclassified interrogation plans and interrogation summaries provided precise corroboration of the methods of torture and ill treatment that the detainee alleged.


"The medical evaluations in this case series revealed evidence of severe physical and severe and prolonged psychological pain as stipulated in the Bybee definition of torture. But, according to the Bybee definition of torture, even if the requisite pain thresholds had been exceeded, the infliction of such pain had to be the interrogator's "precise objective" to constitute torture.


"The medical doctors and mental health personnel who treated the detainees at GTMO failed to inquire and/or document causes of the physical injuries and psychological symptoms they observed. Psychological symptoms were commonly attributed to 'personality disorders' and 'routine stressors of confinement.' Temporary psychotic symptoms and hallucinations did not prompt consideration of abusive treatment.

"The documentation of torture and ill treatment in medicolegal evaluations conducted by non-governmental medical experts indicates that each of the detainees continues to experience severe, long-term and debilitating psychological symptoms that are likely to persist for many years, and possibly a lifetime."

response to Iacopino and Xenakis which, in its failure to even mention their main charges can be taken as an official confirmation that Guantanamo health professionals do no investigate or document the terrible abuses suffered by many prisoners there:

 questionable use of anti-malarial drugs, that Guantanamo healthcare was often problematic and deserves independent scrutiny. While the Bush and Obama administrations have made every effort to keep those records secret, health professionals should challenge that secrecy. We should demand that Guantanamo medical records be opened, with prisoner consent, to independent inspection. Further, all detainees desiring it should be able to receive independent medical evaluations.

Additionally, independent of the issues of possible abuse, the complete medical records of released prisoners should be made available to those prisoners and/or their current health providers. To suppress medical records for years of a person's life is unethical as it interferes with released individuals' ability to obtain required care in the present and the future. Health professionals from all disciplines should make clear that denial of access to their records by released prisoners is in simply unacceptable.

Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. Soldz is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations working to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations; he served as a psychological consultant on several Gutanamo trials. Currently Soldz is President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility [PsySR].