Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Time to revoke Dr. Frists Medical license?

The AMA policy regarding torture reads thusly:
Torture refers to the deliberate, systematic, or wanton administration of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatments or punishments during imprisonment or detainment.

Physicians must oppose and must not participate in torture for any reason. Participation in torture includes, but is not limited to, providing or withholding any services, substances, or knowledge to facilitate the practice of torture. Physicians must not be present when torture is used or threatened.

Physicians may treat prisoners or detainees if doing so is in their best interest, but physicians should not treat individuals to verify their health so that torture can begin or continue. Physicians who treat torture victims should not be persecuted. Physicians should help provide support for victims of torture and, whenever possible, strive to change situations in which torture is practiced or the potential for torture is great. (I, III) Issued December 1999.
Dr. Bill Frist currently holds a license to practice medicine granted by the state of Tennessee. While the AMA does not have the power to directly withdraw that license, the state board of medical directors does take guidance for their decisions based upon the AMA code of medical ethics.

Dr. Frist is currently advocating legislation in the U.S. Senate that would allow the President of the United States to be the lawful arbiter of what or what is not defined as torture. The President in the past has vociferously proclaimed that we do not torture. He did this while condoning the technique of waterboarding which has been historically defined as torture. In order for the President to be able to proclaim we do not torture he must rely upon internal administrative findings that practices that are not the equivalent of major organ failure do not constitute torture. In the case of waterboarding however, the historical and legal precedent clearly demonstrates that the practice is in fact defined as torture.

If Dr. Frist is promoting legislation to allow the President to pursue techniques commonly accepted as being torture against detainees, how does he not violate the code of conduct regarding torture as given by the AMA. He obviously is facilitating torture in so far as he is using his leadership role in the Senate to pass a law that will result in the torture of detainees. In order to facilitate an activity it is not necessary for the accused to be the one actually doing the action. Saddam Hussein is being tried for war crimes based upon his knowledge and promotion of the events in question. No one is accusing him of personally being in the firing squads or pulling the lanyard on the artillery pieces that lobbed the poisonous gas canisters into the Kurdish areas. It is not necessary for criminals to have direct involvement in a crime they have aided or abetted. A person who contracts a murder is as guilty in the eyes of the law as the actual killer even though the contractor is not the direct agent of death.

I believe that if Dr. Frist is the agent by which a piece of legislation is passed allowing the President to legally torture that his medical license should be revoked. For that matter, any Doctor being used by the CIA or any other governmental agency to directly oversee the torture of detainees ought to have their license revoked as well.

The fact that we are even considering all this is an absolute travesty and a sad commentary on the state of affairs that the Bush administration and the Republican rubberstamp Congress have led this nation to.

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