Saturday, July 11, 2015

APA Responds to Inaccuracy in Times Editorial on Psychology, Torture

APA acted to correct a significant inaccuracy in an editorial in yesterday’s New York Times about the American Psychological Association and its policies regarding the involvement of psychologists in the use of torture in the war on terror. The Times corrected the error.

The editorial, titled “Psychologists Who Greenlighted Torture (July 10),” followed an article by Times reporter James Risen on a report commissioned by the American Psychological Association on the subject of psychologists and torture. The editorial originally contained the sentence, “They concluded that psychiatrists could resume assisting in brutal interrogations.”

APA alerted the Times to the error and pointed out that the two professions' ethics differ markedly. On Oct. 19, 2005, then-American Psychiatric Association President Steven Sharfstein, M.D., flew to Guantanamo with the U.S. surgeon general, top military medical officials, and a small group of U.S. medical and psychological leaders. There, he had a frank discussion with them about respecting medical ethics. On his return, the APA Board of Trustees issued a strong statement against psychiatrists' participation in torture as it contravenes physicians' call to do no harm.

After the Times deleted the inaccurate reference, APA President Renée Binder, M.D., and CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., sent a letter to the editor in response to the editorial.

"We note that psychiatry determined that psychiatrists could not participate because of our medical ethics.," they wrote. "Psychiatrists, as physicians, take the Hippocratic Oath to 'first do no harm.'

"There is no joy gained from the sad facts of this era. It just means that professional societies have important roles to play in our national affairs. Ethics are as important as ever. And the facts matter.

"Risen’s reporting also reminds us that opposing torture requires vigilance from all concerned parties. We again state our opposition and our hope that such injustices are never repeated."

(Image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)


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