Thursday, February 21, 2008

American Psychological Association: A Wink and Nod Toward Torture?

I've monitored the issue of psychologist involvement in torture on and off for the last few years. Honestly, if I wasn't spending my spare time writing this blog, I'd probably be following the issue much more closely. The American Psychological Association, easily the largest organization of psychologists in the nation, has never really forbidden its members from participating in some practices that many would consider to be tantamount to torture. Sound strange to you?

I'd like to write in more detail on the topic, but a group of concerned professionals is far ahead of me on the issue, so I'll refer you to a couple of spots:
  • Stephen Soldz's blog; in particular, this list is instructive.
  • A document that examines in depth what appear to be some tricky moves on the part of the APA to give a wink and nod to some of its military members that participation in some forms of, um, "enhanced interrogation" might be okay.
I've only followed the issue sporadically, unfortunately, but the evidence I've seen lends much credence to the position of those who claim that APA is unwilling to take a strong moral stand on this issue.

Keep this in mind -- this post is not meant in a disrespectful manner toward psychologists serving in the military. Providing mental health services to members of the military is laudable. Engaging in torture, however, is not acceptable professional behavior, regardless of what the APA might think. The good majority of psychologists are ethical professionals who would not engage in torture, but when you place a decent human being in a situation where he/she is expected to engage in ethically dubious behavior, then all bets are off.

Hat Tip: Mind Hacks.

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