First, Do No Harm…”Torture Light” on Prime Time

Originally posted on ePluribus Media.

The inability to hold those accountable for crimes committed with regard to Iraq — illegal detainment, torture, murder — is a major loophole that must be closed.  Redefining “torture” to exclude certain activities and calling those activities “enhanced interrogation techniques” doesn’t change what it is, nor does it alleviate the guilt or responsibility of those who have assisted and participated in it.

The biggest concern of the White House and the Republicans in Congress — and, indeed, at large — is that the public will finally reject their waffling and dissembly and ultimately hold them all accountable for what evil they have wrought.

They are right to be concerned.  

Tonight, I saw an episode of television that I came across unexpected, one that dealt with the difficulty of holding accountable those who have participated in torture as well as those who kept their hands, if not their conscience, clear. It was a 2007 episode of Law and Order SVU (Special Victims Unit) entitled “Harm.” The word “harm” is a reference to the Hippocratic Oath,1 although the phrase doesn’t directly appear within it.2

“…I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous…”

The faces of those who have been tortured, after the torture ends and they resume “life” as best they can, are presented in order to convince a prosecutor that they have a case against the female psychiatrist who helped draft the “guidelines” for interrogations that were provided by a Halliburton/Blackwater type company called “Helios” after the actual interrogator was flown, family and all, out of the country to escape prosecution.

“…I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel;…”

Although there are other aspects of the Oath that are apparently out of date in the world today, the use of medical doctors and psychiatrists to help guide the effectiveness of interrogations — and to ensure a degree of faux propriety and protection by not inflicting easily discernable damage —  would very likely disgust the Father of Modern Medicine.

“…Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption;…”

Interesting factoid — Hippocrates was probably the first “Cossack”3 to make a splash in the world.

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Footnotes

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  1. From Wikipedia:

    The origin of the phrase is not widely known; contrary to popular belief, the phrase is not in the Hippocratic Oath. However, it is often described as a Latin paraphrase by Galen of a Hippocratic aphorism (despite the fact that Galen also wrote in Greek rather than Latin); yet no specific mention in Galen’s writings has been reported. The closest approximation to the phrase that can be found in the Hippocratic Corpus is “to help, or at least to do no harm,” taken from Epidemics, Bk. I, Sect. V.

    Check out the link for the whole story.

  2. The Oath, in full, via the Athenaeum Reading Room:

    I SWEAR by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation- to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!

  3. Hippocrates was the first “Kossack” because he was born on the isle of Cos, Greece.

4 comments

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    • GreyHawk on February 11, 2008 at 6:51 am
      Author

    Find and watch the whole episode.

    It has it all — international corporation hiding employees from prosecution, torture “justification” as a result of 9/11, denial of and abdication of responsibility by those physicians who are helping to “redefine” the inhumanity…

    • GreyHawk on February 11, 2008 at 7:03 am
      Author

    This was originally posted on ePluribus Media and has been subsequently posted to DailyKos, Docudharma and BelowBoston.

    Please feel free to pass it around and discuss.

    • Valtin on February 11, 2008 at 7:08 am

    That was a very powerful clip, and I’m glad you found it. As a clinician who has worked with the tortured, from countries as diverse as Guatemala and Ethiopia, from Romania to Turkey, from Burma to Yemen, I can tell you that the testimony of torture victims is delivered with far more pain, unbearable pain and avoidance, than is portrayed here. But I don’t think most could stand more than is shown in the Hollywood dramatization. And the point of art is to make you understand, and not turn you away.

    As for justice, unfortunately the Democrats are far too implicated to let things seriously stop now. Oh, with the election of a Democrat in 2008, there will be a slow down in the use of torture, as there was in the U.S. in the late 1970s, and again during the early Clinton administration. But there was, for instance, Operation Phoenix, and a number of Democratic heads will have to fall for that one. And there’s much, much more, implicating the heads of major organizations and foundations, politicians, military men, universities, etc.

    It sounds like the worst kind of conspiracy tinfoil, except the mainstream media takes no chances with this one. A few try and speak out. The rest ignore the issue totally.

    It is up to the people of this country to demand change, to rise up and demand change. I don’t know how or where. It won’t be just, or even, primarily through electoral means.

    That’s why they stonewall on the CIA tapes scandal, on waterboarding prosecutions, etc. If that Pandora’s Box is opened, out will flow revelations unseen and undiscussed in this country since the Church Commission over 30 years ago.

    Thanks, Greyhawk, for this great essay.

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