Inhumane participation of the medical profession in torture

Other Names:
Association of doctors with torture

Health personnel have been known to assist in the interrogation or punishment of prisoners in a way that adversely affects their health. Involvement of doctors in torture, floggings, amputations and executions is not rare in countries where torture is practised. Doctors have been involved in declaring tortured prisoners fit for further interrogation or for other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They have also amputated limbs by way of punishment; been present at executions by lethal injection; and signed false death certificates. Psychiatrists and psychologists have participated in the torture process by injecting drugs or certifying dissidents as insane. Medical researchers and pharmacologist have developed drugs and sensory deprivation and saturation technologies to encourage victims to give information, experience pain or become disoriented. Such participation, complicity, incitement or attempts to commit torture are a gross contravention of medical ethics.


It has been estimated that in 60% of cases, medical doctors assist in the torturing of victims, not only pronouncing judgement on the fitness of victims but also signing bogus death certificates obscuring the use of torture. A British Medical Association report describes doctors as not only assisting in torture under duress, but also voluntarily. Doctors in the armed forces and prison services have created techniques to interrogate suspected terrorists in Northern Ireland including hooding, making detainees stand with arms against a wall for prolonged periods, continuous noise during interrogation and a bread and water diet. A doctor in Iran bled hundreds of drugged prisoners before they were executed, so that their blood could be used for transfusions.

Doctors and torture has been reported in the following countries:

[Africa] Mauritania

[America] Chile, Colombia, Argentina

[Asia] Iran Islamic Rep, Pakistan, Singapore

[Europe] Spain, UK

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
17.10.2021 – 09:21 CEST