Do no harm — unless you’re a “behavioral scientist”


The New York Times today reports that military doctors at Guantánamo have been schooling interrogators in how to best to mess with detainees’ bodies and minds, including “providing advice on how to increase stress levels and exploit fears.” Now, call me a stickler, but this seems just a bit at odds with the old Hippocratic Oath, no? Retorts the Pentagon: Only if you pedantically insist on viewing the doctors as, you know, doctors.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, declined to address the specifics in the accounts. But he suggested that the doctors advising interrogators were not covered by ethics strictures because they were not treating patients but rather were acting as behavioral scientists.

He said that while some health care personnel are responsible for “humane treatment of detainees,” some medical professionals “may have other roles,” like serving as behavioral scientists assessing the character of interrogation subjects.

Behavioral scientist, heal thyself.

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