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ACP Asks Bush Administration to Investigate If Other U.S.-Held Prisoners and Detainees Are Being Mistreated

May 20, 2004

(Washington, DC): Endorsing President Bush's May 10, 2004, condemnation of reported abuses of Iraqi detainees, the American College of Physicians (ACP), the national organization of doctors of internal medicine, has asked the administration to investigate reports that prisoners and detainees held in other detention facilities under U.S. supervision are being subjected to abusive interrogations and mistreatment, in violation of international law and physicians' professional code of ethics.

"News reports about the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq compel us to once again request that you take all necessary steps to investigate and ensure those held under U.S. supervision be treated humanely, not only in Iraq but in other detention facilities under U.S. control or influence," said internist Charles K. Francis, MD, FACP, FACC, ACP president, in a letter to the administration. The letter also urged that detainees not be transferred to the custody of allied governments that allegedly routinely mistreat those held under their supervision.

An earlier letter on the same topic was sent to the administration on October 24, 2003, by then-ACP President Munsey S. Wheby, MD, FACP, a Charlottesville, Va., internist.

Dr. Francis condemned the mistreatment of prisoners and detainees as well as the withholding of medical treatment or pain medication, regardless of motivation, from anyone suffering serious illness or injury. Such actions are in direct conflict with the physician's oath to 'First do no harm.'

"We are deeply concerned for physicians placed in the untenable position of caring for those who have been mistreated," said Dr. Francis. "Whether they must passively accept the inhumane actions of others or are called upon to actively participate, the pressure to compromise their professional ethics is the same."

Dr. Francis cited ACP's Ethics Manual and related position papers that condemn interrogation techniques that inflict physical or psychological harm as a means of obtaining information.

ACP asked the Bush administration to order a formal review of U.S. interrogation practices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and other U.S.-controlled prisons, and prisons controlled by allied governments to which the U.S. transfers prisoners for interrogation.

"While we are encouraged by President Bush's May 10 call for 'a full accounting for the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees' and we agree with his view that 'the conduct that has come to light is an insult to the Iraqi people and an affront to the most basic standards of morality and decency,'" said Dr. Francis, "we feel the administration should go beyond the alleged abuses in Iraq and review other U.S.-controlled prisons and prisons controlled by allied governments."

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illness in adults.

Jack Pope (202) 261-4556, jpope@acponline.org
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org

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