Yes, this happened in America…

By Dr. Jeffrey Parks
MedCity News

The Nobel prize winning NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has published a widely circulated white paper detailing “experiments” conducted by physicians and other medical personnel on detainees at Guantanamo. Read the paper. It’s a grisly, soul-sapping compendium of state-sanctioned, state-organized human experimentation.

Remember those OLC torture memos that war criminals John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote, alleging that the US policy of “enhanced interrogation” was both legal and safe? Well, the “safety” of the techniques was determined based on results of “studies” conducted by medical personnel on actual human beings. The effects of waterboarding and extreme sleep deprivation and sustained severe pain were all meticulously recorded and studied. Conclusions were then drawn. Just like a happy little science project! Only instead of making acetaminophen in the lab and determining the yield of product (the only actual science experiment I remember from college), these criminals were distorting the scientific method for totalitarian, undemocratic purposes.

To wit:

1) Experimenters were able to conclude that saline was a far safer liquid to pour over the faces of restrained inmates, rather than pure water. The simulation of drowning wasn’t altered (thank god!) but the higher sodium concentration of saline helped prevent the unfortunate side effect of severe hyponatremia and subsequent brain edema seen with the forced swallowing of large amounts of pure water.

2) Clinical investigators determined that combination of techniques that cause severe pain did not lead to an overall increased susceptibility to the perception of severe pain (someone please feel free to interpet whatever the hell that means). Consequently, researchers felt comfortable recommending that Gitmo torturers could freely combine walling, stress positions, and other pain eliciting techniques. In other words, the detainee felt equally shitty whether you just rammed his head into a wall or combined that with forcing him to also stand on his right leg for three hours without moving.

3) Researchers concluded that sleep deprivation up to 180 hours (that’s about 8 days of sleeplessness for the math impaired) did not lead to any long term psychological or physical consequences. And then as long as you let the subject sleep uninterruptedly for 8 hours, you could resume another 180 hours of wakefulness! Sweet!

Yes, this happened in America. This is what even the Obama Administration defends to its core. We don’t look back in this country. We gaze only toward the future, wide eyed and full of hope. With our blinders on. No one is held accountable for lawlessness and immoral actions. We invade countries under false pretenses. We torture suspects. We detain indefinitely “suspicious Muslims” for years at a time only to release them without any charges. We send unmanned Predator drones into Pakistan and Afghanistan, strafing villages, collateral damage be damned. Our former President can smugly proclaim, “hell yeah I waterboarded KSM….and I’d do it all over again!”. We have government employed doctors who conducted illegal, immoral experiments on human subjects, not for some greater good, mind you, but to provide a sham scientific cover for the inhumane torture and abuse of completely subjugated prisoners.

Maybe the AMA could advocate for some transparency on this issue. I realize they are busy fighting the good fight for the doctor fix and against the special tax on plastic surgery procedures. But perhaps it would be beneficial to their moral standing and ethical credibility to update their statement on the torture doctors from April 2009….

Dr. Jeffrey Parks is a board certified general surgeon working in Cleveland who writes regularly at Buckeye Surgeon.

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