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Violating ethics: unlawful combatants, national security and health professionals
  1. D Holmes,
  2. A Perron
  1. School of Nursing, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to:
 D Holmes
 School of Nursing, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, ON, K1H 8M5, Canada; dholmes{at}

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Violations of ethical conduct

This article is about torture, power and the breach of ethical conduct among military doctors, nurses and medics in the “War on Terror”. Violations of ethical conduct have been widely recounted in academic and non-academic journals and reports.1 This paper is also a call to international boards of doctors and nurses to intervene directly to stop abuses undertaken by US military healthcare providers under the guise of the War on Terror. With evidence growing that US military and security services are actively engaged in the ill treatment, torture and deaths of suspects, details about the participation of healthcare professionals (especially nurses) in such unlawful and unethical activities remain for the most part timidly accounted for. But according to current literature on this topic, there is increasing evidence that US doctors, nurses and medics have been complicit in torture and other unethical activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay (Camp Delta).2–4

The US government has inadequately dealt with these facts. Senior officials in the Bush administration who have played a major part in conducting the War on Terror have been either promoted or asked to remain in their posts. More seriously, despite worldwide condemnation of the reality behind the photos, allegations of torture continue at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.5 The graphic and appalling nature of several photographs (taken at Abu Ghraib and broadcasted worldwide) are by no means the only evidence of abuses conducted by the US on its own territory and abroad. But the complicity of healthcare professionals in many venues (whether as witnesses or participants), such as in capital punishment procedures in the US, exacerbates the already disturbing extent of bio-political abuses by the US government.

Doctors and nurses often top the polls as caring and trustworthy professionals.6 Indeed, so strong …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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