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Doctors prefer politics to their duties

The medical community is calling for an investigation into the role of US medical staff in the prisoner abuse that took place in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, according to two new journal articles and appeals from physicians' groups. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the US-run prison sparked controversy in spring 2004 when photographs surfaced showing US soldiers grinning as they posed beside naked and injured prisoners. Now, a damning picture is emerging about what role medical staff played in the abuse. The US military medical system "failed to protect detainees' human rights, sometimes collaborated with interrogators or abusive guards, and failed to properly report injuries or deaths caused by beatings," writes Steven Miles, a physician at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, US, in The Lancet. Miles, along with the journal's editors, is calling for a full investigation of the role of medical staff after he scoured news reports and available government documents on the abuse. Miles describes one interrogation in which medical staff left after reviving a prisoner who collapsed after a beating, allowing the abuse to continue. In another case, a medic inserted a catheter into the corpse of a detainee who died from torture to create evidence the prisoner was alive at the hospital. And in another incident in November 2003, a surgeon listed "natural causes" as the cause of death of a man who actually died when interrogators put his head in a sleeping bag and sat on his chest. Six months later, the Pentagon ruled the death a homicide by asphyxia, informs News Scientist. According to Globandmail, some U.S. military doctors in Iraq and Afghanistan betrayed their duty to patients by participating in and covering up the abuse of prisoners, a report in the British journal Lancet argues. Written by Dr. Steven Miles, a bioethicist at a U.S. university, the article calls for an urgent investigation to assess the extent to which U.S. military doctors, nurses and medics abandoned the “moral obligations” of their profession. Published Thursday, the same day reports emerged that an U.S. army inquiry will lay blame on commanders at Abu Ghraib for creating conditions that allowed abuses to occur at the jail, the article says the testimony which has emerged paints a picture of medical professionals allowing, assisting and participating in the abuse of prisoners. SeattlePI specifies, university of Minnesota professor Steven Miles cites evidence that doctors or medics falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings, revived a prisoner to be further tortured and allowed a medically untrained guard to sew up a prisoner's wound. Medical personnel's role in torture at the prison was a fundamental one, Miles alleges. "The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations," he writes. "A physician and a psychiatrist helped design, approve and monitor interrogations at Abu Ghraib." Instead of an outraged denial from the Pentagon, a spokesman told The Associated Press that the incidents Miles' article recounts came primarily from the Defense Department's own investigation of the abuses. Indeed, "many of these cases remain under investigation, and charges will be brought against any individual where there is evidence of abuse."

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