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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Monday, January 25, 2016

Professionalism and Conflicting Interests: The American Psychological Association’s Involvement in Torture

By Nikhil A. Patel and G. David Elkin
AMA Journal of Ethics
October 2015, Volume 17, Number 10: 924-930.
doi: 10.1001/journalofethics.2015.17.10.nlit1-1510.

Here is an excerpt:

A violation of medical ethics. “Primum non nocere” (first, do no harm) is a central ethical tenet that applies to all health care professionals, including psychologists. Society trusts us to provide high-quality, ethical care to those who seek our help. While we may not be able to heal all of our patients, this principle of nonmaleficence is a pillar of bioethics that must be considered in deciding whether we are doing “right” by those under our care. As the United Nations (UN) declares: “It is a contravention of medical ethics for health personnel, particularly physicians, to be involved in any professional relationship with prisoners or detainees the purpose of which is not solely to evaluate, protect or improve their physical and mental health”. The fact that the ethics leadership at the APA ensured that the ethical guidelines would be written with the operational interests of the DoD in mind is an affront to the independence and integrity of the profession of psychology.

The guidance that psychologists should defer to legal authority in conflict with professional norms has an alarming similarity to the “Nuremberg defense,” in which doctors on trial after the horrors of the Holocaust argued that they were simply following the orders of their commanding officers and that their actions were legal at the time. An action’s being legal for citizens in general or military officers does not make it ethically acceptable for members of a healing profession.

The article is here.
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