This conflict and that of doctors at Guantanamo Bay were discussed at the International Committee of Miliary Medicine's Convention on the Law of International Armed Conflict in Switzerland, Aug '03, in a discussion on the conflict of medical ethics and patriotism.
Although no one there seriously argued that a doctor should participate in such actions, I put forward the argument that by refusing to participate, the doctor would be serving his/her country better than if he/she did participate, because he would be protecting the national honour.
The message of this article is not for MOs or their supporters, but for teeth arm officers who can allow the driving impulse to win to overwhelm their ethical judgment and sense of honour.
I hereby promise to whinge at every opportunity,
to abuse all Nursing staff and clerical staff,
If asked to do something menial I shall raise my eyebrows and go Tut several times,
When in the bar, we BMS shall all congregate on stools and talk about stools,
when it is our round we shall disappear to the toilet
I would like to think that all medical personnel as non combatants would stick by their oath and only harm others in defence of themselves or their patients.
As stated earlier all professions will have their rotten apples and the medical profession is no exception. MOre importantly are the fellow clinicians keeping an eye out to prevent these sick individuals, who may be considering involvement in torture, form breaching the oath to which they have sworn.
I think that more worrying than the "bad apples" (who can usually be spotted early) are those medical professionals whose otherwise commendable commitment to the Armed Forces can outweigh their professional ethics. How much tougher is it for a career military doctor when there's a 1*+ leaning on him? And where is the line drawn? Does a doctor refuse to treat victims of torture because he knows that the torturers will use the opportunity to torture the victim some more, or does he do what he can to keep the poor bugger alive in the hope that he might come out of it all in one piece?
The glib answer - he should blow the whistle - is harder when the activity is tacitly approved by the chain-of-command even up to the C-in-C (allegedly) and when the doc (honest, committed to good work in the Forces) knows that whistle-blowing will end his career...
This is what I meant about the message of the article. It might be the docs and medics who're breaking medical ethics, but it's the "other"-arms ("teeth arms" was probably too specific) commanders who are putting on the pressure. Ethics starts at the top.