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Doctors and torture: the police surgeon.
  1. S H Burges

    Abstract

    Much has been written by many distinguished persons about the philosophical, religious and ethical considerations of doctors and their involvement with torture. What follows will not have the erudition or authority of the likes of St Augustine, Mahatma Gandi, Schopenhauer or Thomas Paine. It represents the views of a very ordinary person; a presumption defended by the submission that many very ordinary persons have been, and will be, instruments for effecting, assisting or condoning the physical or mental anguish of others. As practitioners of medicine, we are particularly vulnerable, since our particular knowledge and our privileged position may be so easily abused--to the detriment of others. Those of us who practice clinical forensic medicine have even greater responsibility by virtue of our daily contact with the enforcement of law, criminal procedure, and the machinations of the judiciary. We are thus particularly well placed to monitor, encourage or discourage the occurrence of evil practices within the community. It is imperative, therefore, that the ordinary doctor should be cognisant of, and be party to, a code of conduct formulated by his peers and having reference to his obligations as a citizen, and doctor, and to his ability to manipulate human activity. Forensic physicians have further discretionary powers as arbiters in the marriage of the art and ethics of healing with the principles and practice of justice.

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