1. Agar-Newman, Ken RN

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Editor's note: This letter was sent to the ANA as well as AJN.


I am a Canadian nurse who, like many Americans, is shocked by the reports and photographs of torture of detainees in U.S. custody (Letters, January).


Dr. Robert Jay Lifton in the New England Journal of Medicine reports "there is increasing evidence that U.S. doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay." 1 Lifton's evidence includes articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post. Unfortunately, the U.S. government's own investigations are mostly mute regarding medical and nursing involvement in torture.


A number of doctors have corresponded with the U.S. government about U.S.-based human rights violations connected with the "war on terror." Physicians for Human Rights executive director Leonard S. Rubenstein has called for a thorough investigation into the torture of prisoners. He emphasizes that efforts must encompass "a robust examination of guidance provided to health professionals who work in settings where interrogations occur, since it appears that guidance for medical personnel is almost entirely lacking." As of November 2004 no such U.S. government investigation has been forthcoming. 2


How has the ANA responded to the torture and abuse by the U.S. military under the auspices of the "war on terror?" Has the ANA pressured the U.S. government to fully account for the situation? Is the ANA pleased with the aftercare for victims of abuse by the U.S. military? What can be done to help them further in the way of rehabilitation and compensation? Is the ANA reassured with the human rights training and support of military nurses? What guarantees are there that the abuse won't happen again? Is the ANA confident that military nurses who protect human rights will be safe from reprisals from their superiors? Is the ANA satisfied that nurses who witnessed the violations and didn't report them or nurses who more actively participated, are or will be fully investigated and, if necessary, censured? Can the ANA guarantee potential civilian employers that there are adequate tools to identify military nurses who were involved in the abuse? If you are not going to stubbornly and comprehensively protect human rights as they relate to nurses within the U.S. military, who will?


Ken Agar-Newman, RN


Victoria, BC


1. Lifton RJ. Doctors and torture. N Engl J Med 2004;351(5):415-6. [Context Link]


2. Physicians for Human Rights. Guantanamo: Health personnel participation in torture of detainees must stop; PHR calls for independent investigation. 2004. [Context Link]