October 29, 2007

We posted a clip of NBC's Law & Order SVU last week that dealt with the issue of physician-assisted torture in Iraq and I came across this article by Health Day. According to them, an alarming number of U.S. physicians are given inadequate training (as little as one hour total) on medical ethics as they relate to war and the Geneva Conventions:

Too few American medical students receive adequate instruction about military medical ethics and a physician's ethical duties under the Geneva Conventions, say Harvard Medical School researchers.

"The abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have galvanized much of the world against the U.S. Those abuses, in part abetted by physicians, will likely go down as one of our country's most egregious ethical lapses," lead author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd said in a prepared statement.

  • Only 37 percent of medical students could correctly identify that the Geneva Conventions apply irrespective of whether war had formally been declared.
  • 33.8 percent didn't know that the Geneva Conventions state that physicians should "treat the sickest first, regardless of nationality."
  • 37 percent didn't know that the Geneva Conventions prohibit ever threatening or demeaning prisoners, or depriving them of food or water for any length of time.
  • 33.9 percent couldn't state when they would be required to disobey an unethical order from a superior. Read on...

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