New York Must Act Now to Help Health Professionals Ethically Treat Prisoners and Prevent Torture
The New York Torture Prevention Legislation, A-4489 sponsored by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and S-0105 sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, is legislation with bi-partisan support that aims to hold healthcare professionals to one of the most basic principles of medical ethics: do no harm. It represents the first legislation in the country to explicitly prohibit health professionals licensed in the state from assisting in torture, interrogations, and prisoner abuse, while providing them with strong legal protection to resist any future orders or coercion to participate in such acts.
This ground-breaking legislation provides a mechanism for accountability and for preventing torture and mistreatment. The legislation protects health professionals placed in potentially coercive situations, such as prisons or the military, with grounds for refusing to participate in torture/mistreatment of detainees – i.e. “I cannot do this-I could lose my license.”
Not only does this legislation protect our health professionals in coercive situations, adopting this standard is also in the best interest of the state and the nation. When the US tortures, we feed our enemies propaganda- unnecessarily putting our troops in harm's way.
I am writing to ask that you please support Gottfried/Hoylman A-4489/S-0105 and it's passage during the 2015 session.
A-4440 sponsored by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and S-2397 sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, is legislation with bi-partisan support that aims to hold healthcare professionals to one of the most basic principles of medical ethics: do no harm. It represents the first legislation in the country to explicitly prohibit health professionals licensed in the state from assisting in torture, interrogations, and prisoner abuse, while providing them with strong legal protection to resist any future orders or coercion to participate in such acts. Like all laws dealing with professional misconduct, this legislation would be implemented through the use of licensing fees and does not require funding from the state budget.
As revealed in the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report and other official documents, health professionals helped design, monitor, and justify the use of torture on detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram airbase, included waterboarding, sensory deprivation, isolation, forced nudity, stress positions, slapping and tackling, mock executions, threatening detainee’s family, and threatening detainee with guns, guard dogs, and power drills. Health care professionals who participate in these kinds of abhorrent acts thereby commit grave violations of their professional standards and ethics. A doctor who oversees waterboarding or a psychologist who advises on how to break down the psyche of a prisoner has severely compromised their integrity and should not enjoy the privilege of practicing their profession in the State of New York.
The State is the appropriate venue for such legislation given that in order for U.S. health professionals to practice anywhere (domestically or internationally) they must have a state-issued license. This legislation is necessary to protect prisoners, patients, and the professions from those health care professionals who would use their special skill and training to harm others.
As a state that has led the nation and the world on so many important issues, and as a proud New Yorker, I strongly believe that New York must continue to lead now on protecting our health care professionals and protecting our armed forces serving all over the world. Thank you in advance for taking all legislative and policy measures to ensure that the ethics of the health care professional are upheld and that those serving our nation are protected by our policies. Please pass this legislation during the current legislative session.
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