Posts tagged: detainees

Will psychologists be held accountable for participating in torture or cruel and inhumane treatment?

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By , July 10, 2010 3:44 pm

I’ve blogged about the role of psychologists in the torture of detainees a number of times. This past week, there have been some stunning developments as complaints have been filed against two psychologists , Col. Larry James (pdf) and Maj. John Leso that could result in them losing their license as psychologists. And now, the American Psychological Association has issued a statement that it supports the investigation of allegations against James Mitchell. The complaint against Mitchell was filed last month in Texas by Jim  Cox, PhD.  The complaint against Leso was filed by the  Center for Justice & Accountability, and the complaint against James was filed by Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic.

In the past, state boards declined to open investigations, but in light of new/additional revelations, they might open up cases.

Certainly the APA cannot investigate or take action against someone who is not a member of the APA. But I am left wondering, yet again, what horrors might have been prevented had the APA taken a firmer stand earlier.

“Psychologists Abandon the Nuremberg Ethic”

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By , May 30, 2009 4:54 pm

The new issue of International Journal of Law & Psychiatry (vol.32, #4, pp. 161-166) includes an article, “Psychologists Abandon the Nuremberg Ethic.”

The authors are Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP, & Thomas G. Gutheil, M.D.

Here’s the abstract:

In the aftermath of 9-11, the American Psychological Association, one of the largest U.S. health professions, changed its ethics code so that it now runs counter to the Nuremberg Ethic. This historic post-9-11 change allows psychologists to set aside their ethical responsibilities whenever they are in irreconcilable conflict with military orders, governmental regulations, national and local laws, and other forms of governing legal authority. This article discusses the history, wording, rationale, and implications of the ethical standard that U.S. psychologists adopted 7 years ago, particularly in light of concerns over health care professionals’ involvement in detainee interrogations and the controversy over psychologists’ prominent involvement in settings like the Guantánamo Bay Detainment Camp and the Abu Ghraib prison. It discusses possible approaches to the complex dilemmas arising when ethical responsibilities conflict with laws, regulations, or other governing legal authority.

Here’s how the Conclusion begins:

It is impossible to know how widespread the impact of the American Psychological Association’s reputation, size, and influence have been in these areas. For example, did a healthcare organization of over 148,000 members repeatedly endorsing over the years its participation in detainee interrogations, emphasizing the unique value of its competencies in this area, and offering public reassurances about those interrogations tend to encourage some in the public to believe that the methods used were necessary, ethical, unharmful, and effective, especially in light of the fact that psychologists played important roles in designing and providing training in some of these methods?

Here’s how the article ends:

Nuremberg’s message that ethical responsibilities and accountability are indispensable came at such great price, it should not be forgotten or set aside lightly.

The article is available free online at:

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