Human Experimentation Not Just For Nazis Anymore

In what may be one of the most revolting developments yet concerning America’s “War on Terror,” Physicians for Human Rights is claiming that US doctors–working in conjunction with the CIA–may be guilty of engaging in unlawful human experimentation.  The Guardian reports:

“The most incendiary accusation of PHR’s latest report, Aiding Torture, is that doctors actively monitored the CIA’s interrogation techniques with a view to determining their effectiveness, using detainees as human subjects without their consent. The report concludes that such data gathering was “a practice that approaches unlawful experimentation”.

Human experimentation without consent has been prohibited in any setting since 1947, when the Nuremberg Code, which resulted from the prosecution of Nazi doctors, set down 10 sacrosanct principles. The code states that voluntary consent of subjects is essential and that all unnecessary physical and mental suffering should be avoided.”[emphasis added.]

Reading the report is very disturbing, but it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Once the government explicitly engages in felonies–torture, resulting in over 100 detainee deaths–one should expect further unlawful behavior to follow. That should be so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said, but, as is clear now, when it comes to our country’s collective understanding of the law, no principle is too elementary to be stated.

That’s why we need investigations of the highest level Bush officials–illegal behavior was systemic, not the result of a few bad apples. Once the government opens the door to procedures that have been considered torture since WWII (like waterboarding), what’s to keep interrogators from committing other WWII-era crimes? If the law can be disregarded when it comes to waterboarding, then it logically follows  that the law can be disregarded when it comes to human experimentation.

The one silver-lining in this story is that it’s SO repulsive it might actually provoke public outrage. Discouragingly though, as of posting-time, a google search of “CIA PHR Torture” yields no results from major American news outlets. For further reading, go here for more media implications, and here for an interesting historical take.