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If Not Now, When? -- APA Fails to Sanction Psychologist in Guantanamo Torture Case

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 2/13/14

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Some of the more recent APA policies regarding the unethical nature of coercive interrogation techniques were not in effect at the time of the actions described in the Complaint. In APA's view, those policies are not necessary to find that actions of the type described in the Complaint are patently unethical. Acts such as water boarding and sexual humiliation are explicit violations of APA policy, and utterly inconsistent with Ethical Standard 3.04 in the APA Ethics Code, which obligates psychologists to avoid harm. [Emphasis added]

Conclusion

* The APA has stated, repeatedly and in no uncertain terms, that psychologists shown to have participated in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment will be held accountable.

* Dr. John Leso is known to have designed, supervised, and implemented state-sanctioned torture at Guantanamo.

* It is precisely when such abuse is institutional -- in this case, sanctioned by the state -- that our profession's independent ethical principles and standards are most necessary.

* Yet the APA Ethics Office has decided to close the complaint against Dr. Leso without taking any disciplinary action whatsoever. In adopting this course, the APA has backed away from its crucial ethical commitments and obligations.

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Health professionals adhere to an independent code of ethics precisely because we are entrusted with protecting the well being of the individuals with whom we come in contact. We use our skills to heal and not harm, and we do not abuse the authority of our roles, even if the individual is a criminal or an enemy on the battlefield. It is our obligation to protect each person's right to health and care even if the government, the police, or the military insists otherwise. Without such a code of ethics -- and without holding psychologists accountable to such a code -- the hard-won public trust in our profession understandably evaporates.

When the U.S. government lost its own ethical bearings and sanctioned the torture of prisoners of war and other detainees, it requested that physicians and psychologists oversee the program. Whether for reasons of patriotism, careerism, sadism, or obedience to authority, many acquiesced. Psychological research has taught us that when the state organizes and sanctions abuse and torture, many will conform. Our profession established a code of ethics in part because we know that situational and personal pressures can lead us to betray even our most cherished principles.

In refusing to implement its ethics code and hold abusers accountable, APA has abandoned its responsibility for ethical leadership and squandered the opportunity to offer clarity to the public and guidance to its military and intelligence psychologists who, were similar circumstances to arise again, will be called upon again to play such roles.

We believe the Council of Representatives should use its authority [4] to uphold what the Ethics Office has obscured: our ethical responsibility and accountability as professional psychologists. We recommend a full review, investigation, and report of the APA's Ethics Office process regarding the case of John Leso -- and other cases where public evidence implicates APA members in aiding or assisting torture or abuse. We ask too that Council revoke the statute of limitations on ethics cases that involve torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

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We also encourage all concerned psychologists to let APA know that members of our profession must be held accountable for their ethics violations, especially when these violations involve torture or abuse. That such a request may be perceived as radical, rather than reasonable, is itself testament to how far we have strayed from our basic standard of ethics.

Steven Reisner

Roy Eidelson

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www.eidelsonconsulting.com

Roy Eidelson is a psychologist who studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is president of Eidelson Consulting, a past president of Psychologists for (more...)
 

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Never trust a member of an association that wouldn... by Archie on Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 at 3:35:08 PM