Health Professionals' Pledge Against Torture | Physicians for Human Rights

Ever since the 2016 presidential campaign, political dialogue in the United States has included open discussion of a return to waterboarding – and “worse.” This unacceptable threat to human rights demands action from everyone, especially those committed to “do no harm.” It is a critical moment for health professionals to speak out against torture.

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Torture and other ill-treatment are illegal under international and domestic law. They are further prohibited under our codes of ethics, because they breach the most fundamental tenet that health professionals commit themselves to uphold: do no harm.

As health professionals, we use our scientific and professional knowledge and skills to serve humanity. Yet torture degrades the health and dignity of human beings and damages not only victims, their families, and their communities, but also perpetrators, institutions, and society itself.

In addition, as professionals guided by the best available evidence, we note that torture has been proven an ineffective means of interrogation. Using torture generates flawed intelligence and contradicts the best practices of interrogation experts.

Throughout history, members of our professions have been enlisted by governments to legitimize and sanction the use of torture. Most recently, after 9/11, American health professionals helped design and implement the systematic torture and abuse of national security detainees.

With the looming threat of a return to torture as official U.S. policy, health professionals must form a critical line of defense. We must stand together and affirm that torture is illegal, unethical, immoral, and harmful. Now, more than ever, we must put the U.S. government on notice that we are committed to the legal and ethical responsibilities of our professions.

Take action to stand up for justice–sign the petition below.

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Petition Signers

Peter Agre, M.D., Maryland
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Director, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute
Nobel Laureate in Medicine
Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN,  Maryland
President, American Nurses Association
Robert L. Cohen, M.D.,  New York
Member, New York City Board of Correction
David Satcher, M.D., PhD,  Georgia
Morehouse School of Medicine
Former Surgeon General of the United States
Kerry J. Sulkowicz, M.D.,  New York
Board of Directors, Physicians for Human Rights
Brigadier General (Retired) Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D.,   Maryland
Former Erik Erikson Scholar
The Austen Riggs Center
Adjunct Professor, The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
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Health Professionals' Pledge Against Torture


By signing the Health Professionals Pledge Against Torture, I declare the following:
  • I will never participate in or condone torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, under any circumstance or for any reason.
  • I will demand that the U.S. government uphold the legal prohibition against torture and ill-treatment.
  • I will support colleagues who resist orders to torture or inflict harm.
  • I will insist that my professional association support colleagues facing pressure to participate in or condone torture and ill-treatment.
  • I will report torture to professional associations.
  • I will urge professional associations to enforce ethical standards with comprehensive investigations into reports of abuse and to support professional and legal consequences for violations.