No role for mental health professionals in the practice of torture

Jan 29, 2010

Psychologists and psychiatrists should not be expected to participate in torture as they do not have the expertise to assess individual pain or the long-term effects of interrogation, says an expert in the British Medical Journal today.

The authors, Derrick Silove and Susan Rees, from the University of New South Wales in Australia, say some senior members of the US military have argued that a psychologist's presence is necessary to protect the prisoner or detainee from the "severe physical or mental pain or suffering resulting in prolonged mental harm."

They add that several leading scientific journals have also published papers by authors who support the presence of professionals as protection for detainees.

But the authors believe that there is no established marker to assess "extreme experiences that cause pain or " and do not believe it is possible for professionals "to make accurate assessments of the level of pain or mental trauma being experienced by the detainee."

They maintain that it can be "notoriously difficult" to assess how much distress a detainee is experiencing. Indeed, there is evidence that "militants who are ideologically prepared may show greater resilience when tortured."

There is extensive research, they argue, that torture causes long-term . However, "we do not yet have the to predict with any precision what the psychological outcome will be for an individual."

The authors conclude that having spent years trying to reveal the damaging effects of torture, it would be ironic if health professionals were called upon to use their skills to participate in this practice.

Explore further: One in five US adults dealt with a mental illness in 2013

More information: bmj.com/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

2 hours ago

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

3 hours ago

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

4 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

Dominant people can be surprisingly social

4 hours ago

In contrast to the lay stereotype, dominant people prove to be avid social learners, just like dominant individuals in the animal kingdom. Neuroscientists from Radboud University show this with a complex ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dick214
5 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2010
These researchers miss an important ethical point by discussing this matter in an either/or process. It brings the activity of torturing into the area of public conversation and thereby 'begins' to discuss the subject in such a way as to preliminarily accept it.
frajo
not rated yet Jan 31, 2010
While it is true that even the mere discussion of this topic brings the dangerous connotation of a potential acceptance
the alternative - taboo - does not seem suitable to abolish torture.
The only way to get rid of torture is the long road of despising all those people who tolerate, favour, order, and practice torture. This method has worked for abolishing cannibalism and there is no reason to assume it won't work for abolishing torture.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.