Socialism is the Best Medicine

Socialism is the Best Medicine

How Liberals Justify Torture

June 19, 2011

Torture is a common practice in one-third of  all nations.

In “The Tortured Patient: A Medical Dilemma,” Chiara Lepora and Joseph Millum argue that “sometimes being complicit [with torture] is the right thing to do.”

While the authors concede that,

“Torture is unethical and usually counterproductive. It is prohibited by international and national laws.”

they offer a liberal justification for participating in torture by redefining the torture victim as “a patient in need of treatment.”

“To accede to the requests of the torturers may entail assisting or condoning terrible acts. But to refuse care to someone in medical need may seem like abandoning a patient and thereby fail to exhibit the beneficence expected of physicians.”

Just because medical professionals are asked to assist with torture does not transform the torture victim into a patient and the torture chamber into a medical consulting room.

Unlike conservatives who support torture as ‘necessary,’ liberals talk left in order to move right. They condemn torture on moral grounds, yet accept it as a ‘reality’ to which one must adapt.

In Disciplined Minds, (2001), Jeff Schmidt explains that professional education has a dual purpose: to teach specific skills; and to mold a managerial class to serve capitalism.

“When the professional training system does not malfunction, it selects and produces people who are comfortable surrendering political control over their work, people who are not deeply troubled by the status quo and are willing and able to do work that supports it.” (p.144)

In Professional Poison (2009) I explain,

“When moral pressure fails to solve the problem, professionals will “adapt to reality” and become the managers of misery.” (p. 10)

Should we assist at a beating or a rape to help the victim survive the assault? Of course not. That would make us accomplices to a criminal act.

Similarly, anyone who assists at torture is complicit in the crime, regardless of their reasons for doing so.


In 2014, the American Psychological Association rejected a complaint against a psychologist involved in the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Dr. John Leso participated in the ‘interrogation’ of Mohammed al-Qahtani, whose charges were later dropped because of the brutality he suffered.

Boston-based psychologist, Stephen Soldz, described Leso’s involvement in torture as “probably the clearest, most documented case [of psychologist] participation in abuse that we’re going to have.”

The American Psychological Association did not deny Leso’s involvement in torture, stating only, “we have determined that we cannot proceed” with the case.




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