New York Must Act Now to Help Health Professionals Ethically Treat Prisoners and Prevent Torture
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.
What does this legislation do?
• Confirms that NY-licensed health professionals’ duty to do no harm applies to their professional relationships with all patients and under all employers
• Reaffirms and upholds every code of professional ethics that health professionals licensed in New York are prohibited from involvement in torture or abuse of prisoners, wherever that abuse takes place
• Removes NY-licensed health care professionals from interrogations
• Empowers NY-licensed health care professionals to resist being coerced into torture/mistreatment of detainees.
• Serves in the best interests of our armed forces serving all over the world and of our nation’s national security
Why is this legislation necessary?
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.