From reviewing various blog posts we seem to agree that torture is never justifiable, which is a position I agree with.
Unfortunately it seems that some medical professionals do not agree and are even prepared to use their skills to assist in interrogation (see NY Times article on a Red Cross report into the CIA interrogation of suspected terrorists). It is unclear from this report whether any of these medical professionals were physiotherapists. It is not impossible to believe that a physiotherapist was involved. If this were the case do you feel that such a physiotherapist should be punished by your professional body?
I also found this philosophical discussion of the ethics of medical involvement in torture very interesting in its exploration of the definition of torture which helps clarify that normal physiotherapy treatment shouldn’t be considered torture… however are there circumstances where this definition may apply? e.g. the treatment of an uncooperative elderly patient?
“Torture is the deliberate infliction of pain or other severe distress by one sentient being on another who is in captivity and involves using that being as a means to an end to which the being has not consented”
This paper also raises 3 ways in which the medical professional may be involved
(a) he attempts to heal the victims of torture;
(b) he himself engages in torture either by advising or by actually carrying it out;
(c) he examines possible victims knowing or suspect-ing that torture will follow.
There may be ways of involvement which we can justify such as option A and others ways of involvement which are less clear cut such as option C. A potential scenario for option C for a physiotherapist could be where you are asked to examine a prisoner to determine whether they could weight bear on an injured leg, where you suspect that enforced standing could then be utilised as a torture technique. In such circumstances what would you do? Do you diagnose that the prisoner could not weight bear even when your professional opinion would be that they could?