Friday, October 10, 2008

APA Membership Rejects Torture

APA Membership Rejects Torture

The American Psychological Association membership recently overrode their leadership (the Council of Representatives) via member vote. After significant grassroots organization by several psychologist organizations, the APA was forced to send out a ballot asking members whether APA members should be allowed to work in settings where detainees were held in inhumane conditions and/or in sites that operate outside of the Geneva Convention. And over 60% of respondents said no to psychologists working in settings where inhumane treatment occurs unless it is in the service of detainees, treatment to military members, or a human rights organization.

Then APA President Alan Kazdin issued a letter to President Bush. The full text is available here. Here's one particularly relevant excerpt:

So now APA has finally caught up with the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, who have banned their members from participating in such activities for years. Not all psychologists are members of APA, so APA does not have any jurisdiction over their behavior. Additionally, passing a change in policy does not physically stop some individuals, in the name of sadism, peer pressure, or defense of country, from abetting or engaging in torture. Nonetheless, on at least a symbolic level, it's nice to see that the membership of APA stood behind this issue.

Let me clearly mention that I have nothing against psychologists in the military, as the mental health needs of the military and their families is a highly important issue. Another important principle: Do No Harm, including to so-called enemy combatants or whomever else was receiving "enhanced interrogation" from psychologists and others.

APA, of course, has always been against torture in principle, but the position they took against it was a little watered-down for my taste, so I'm glad to see that their stance has, by force of the membership, become more clearly anti-torture. An interesting piece from one of the most prominent advocates of altering APA policy on this matter can be read here. The disgusting work products of some psychologists who actively engaged in torturous practices are described in a rather shocking Vanity Fair article.

And please, oh please, let nobody take the tack that I am some left-wing pro-terrorist nutjob just because I believe that torturing the hell out of people is both unethical and ineffective.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

So when will APA, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association ban their members from assisting in capital punishment?