Torture and violence can be justified according to medical ethics
Torture is inhumane and arguably the most extreme form of violence against a person because it often results in physical or psychological damages. Torture has existed for the most part of history and is surprisingly still being practiced to date throughout the world despite international laws being against any form of torture. Under no circumstance is torture, cruelty, or any undignified treatment towards a person is justified.
But while torture is internationally illegal, most countries and armed groups have maintained some form of the void by failing to criminalize torture and other forms of ill-treatment under their national laws. By remaining silent about the issue, more than three-quarters of countries around the world continue to violate international law by applying different forms of torture methods against the very people they are meant to protect.
Even doctors, by virtue of their professional expertise, have also be involved, albeit indirectly, in torture. During emergencies, physicians are often forced to perform procedures and duties relating to their medical expertise in violation of their professional code of ethics. Acting against these orders is often very difficult and may result in grave personal consequences.
The participation of medics in torture has been strongly opposed and condemned and no one would have ever thought that a time would come when medical ethics would take any other stand regarding torture. However, recently, biomedical ethics have become quite active and aggressive in accepting and supporting other propositions justifying different forms of torture.
This new trend has given rise to the debate about the involvement of medics in torture. The very popular and honored medical principle of “first not harm” has been subject to debates and opinionated arguments trying to explain and justify why physicians should outgrow the ancient statute that urges that they only take care of the sick and adopt the idea of accepting social responsibilities in emergency environments.
The ethical justification of violence is based on two major rules. Permission to kill in self defense, and the “just war” situations. However various ethical issues have since arisen like the question regarding what can be done and by whom during the supposedly “just war” situations. Unprecedented discussions have also come up some pointing that physicians should not be restricted by their professional ethics and be ready to cater to the needs and strategies of the government and the military when they are called upon.
The argument is that, during times of emergency, the federal and state government systems override the legal system by exerting power on individuals who cease to become citizens and who may pose danger to others to protect the rights of other citizens. Based on this argument, physicians should be ready to collaborate with the government in their strategies and decisions even if it involves torture to protect other people.
Boyd, Kenneth. “Medical involvement in torture today?.” (2016): 411-412.
Nathanson, Vivienne. “Torture and international medical ethics standards.” Research Handbook on Torture. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.
Teays, Wanda. Doctors and Torture. Springer International Publishing, 2019.