On Monday, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) released a new report "Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Research and Experimentation in the "Enhanced" Interrogation Program," which provides evidence indicating that the "enhanced interrogation" program carried out after September 11, 2001 involved doctors and other health professionals in conducting apparently unethical research and experimentation using detainees as human subjects. Two PsySR members, Steven Reisner and myself, are among the coauthors on this report.
The report received extensive press coverage, including over 500 articles. It was downloaded 4,200 times in the first 24 hours. Among the press articles was this New York Time s article and one I wrote [readable here]. Last Tuesday also saw a New York Times editorial on the report.
As a follow-up action, on Wednesday eight health, religious, human rights groups PHR, PsySR, Amnesty, Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Victims of Torture, National Religious Campaign Against Torture [the International Rehabilitation Council for the Victims of Torture joined the next day] held a press conference announcing that we are filing a complaint with the Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP) in the Department of Health and Human Services. OHRP is the federal office tasked with enforcing The Common Rule, the set of research ethics guidelines that all responsible human subject researchers learn early in their training. I've posted below the statement that I made at the press conference on behalf of PsySR.
One exciting aspect of this OHRP complaint is that, for the first time it provides a mechanism for individual citizens to directly take action regarding an aspect of our government's torture regime. PHR has established an online mechanism whereby each of us can directly sign onto the complaint to OHRP. PLEASE CONSIDER GOING HERE AND SIGNING THE COMPLAINT. We hope that many thousands around the world will join us in this complaint.
Please do what you can to spread the word. We are especially interested in mobilizing new constituencies: the scientific community because of the illegal and unethical research angle; the Jewish community because of the Nazi doctors connection; and the African-American community because of the Tuskegee connection. Please help with forwarding articles, writing letters to the editor, calling in to talk radio, posting comments on online articles, etc, etc.
Experiments in Torture and news about the report and its reception are available here.
Comments of Dr. Stephen Soldz, President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, at Press Conference Announcing the Filing of a Complaint With The Office of Human Research Protections Regarding CIA Torture Research
I am President-Elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. I am a clinician, seeing patients, and a researcher, having conducted numerous research studies and published dozens of research papers.
Since WW II, there has been international agreement that all research should be based upon two fundamental principles: informed consent; and minimization of harm. "The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential" stated the 1947 Nuremberg Code enunciated while trying German doctors who committed horrific abuses during WWII.
As a researcher I know that all my research goes through extensive ethical review, mandated by our government, to ensure compliance with these principles. If I violate these principles, it will be investigated. A the new PHR report documents, the CIA apparently violated those principles. This violation must be investigated.
I want to explain why this matters to all of us. In addition to the horror of the actions described in the PHR report, we should remember how we all benefit from human subject, especially biomedical, research. Whenever the public learns of ethical lapses by researchers that trust and public support for research erodes, leaving us all poorer. If trust erodes, fewer people will be willing to participate in biomedical research and public support declines and we all will lose.
OHRP, in the Department of Health and Human Services, is the agency of our government entrusted with preventing this erosion of public trust. OHRP has a distinguished history of carrying out this responsibility and not shirking from taking on powerful institutions in our society. Today we call upon them to do their duty to investigate these abuses and to protect us.