Military Doctors and Their Ethical Dilemmas

Stephen N. Xenakis is a medical doctor who retired from the U.S. army at the rank of brigadier general. In his essay for the No Torture. No Excuses series in the January-March Washington Monthly, he cites interrogation logs obtained by Time magazine on the torture in 2002 and early 2003 of Mohammed al-Qahtani. Xenakis writes that a doctor treated him for hypothermia

in order to return him to his interrogators.

This, of course, is an extreme test of the oath to “do no harm” but not the only medical dilemma doctors face in war,when even those who treat their own side’s military men and women may be returning them to the possibility of re-injury or even death.

It reminds me of the moral questions faced by those who assist in executions by legal injection. I think that an opinion piece can be good journalism. In this case, I would have liked to have seen a deeper examination of the issues involved and perhaps to have heard from those facing these decisions and how they dealt with them. Still, a valuable read that raises important questions.

The library is closing. More later…

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