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Health Professionals'
Pledge Against Torture

Recent political dialogue in the United States has included open discussion of a return to waterboarding – and “worse.” This unacceptable threat to human rights demands action from everyone, especially those committed to “do no harm.” It is a critical moment for health professionals to speak out against torture.

Torture and other ill-treatment are illegal under international and domestic law. They are further prohibited under our codes of ethics, because they breach the most fundamental tenet that health professionals commit themselves to uphold: do no harm.

As health professionals, we use our scientific and professional knowledge and skills to serve humanity. Yet torture degrades the health and dignity of human beings and damages not only victims, their families, and their communities, but also perpetrators, institutions, and society itself.

In addition, as professionals guided by the best available evidence, we note that torture has been proven an ineffective means of interrogation. Using torture generates flawed intelligence and contradicts the best practices of interrogation experts.

Throughout history, members of our professions have been enlisted by governments to legitimize and sanction the use of torture. Most recently, after 9/11, American health professionals helped design and implement the systematic torture and abuse of national security detainees.

With the looming threat of a return to torture as official U.S. policy, health professionals must form a critical line of defense. We must stand together and affirm that torture is illegal, unethical, immoral, and harmful. Now, more than ever, we must put the U.S. government on notice that we are committed to the legal and ethical responsibilities of our professions.

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Lead Signers


    • Peter Agre, M.D., Maryland
      Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Director,
      Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute
      Nobel Laureate in Medicine
    • Scott A. Allen, M.D., California
      Medical Advisor, Physicians for Human Rights
      Professor of Clinical Medicine
      University of California Riverside School of Medicine
    • Eden Almasude, M.D. Candidate, Minnesota
      PHR Student Advisory Board
      University of Minnesota Medical School
    • M. Gregg Bloche, M.D., JD, District of Columbia
      Professor of Law, Georgetown University
    • Diane Bruessow, PA-C, DFAAPA, New York
      Director at Large, American Academy of Physicians Assistants
    • Donald S. Burke, M.D., Pennsylvania
      Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health
      Dean, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh
    • Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, New York
      Professor and Director, Division of Medical Ethics
      NYU School of Medicine
    • Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Maryland
      President, American Nurses Association
    • Robert L. Cohen, M.D., New York
      Member, New York City Board of Correction
    • Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN, Ohio
      Professor of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University
    • Vincent Iacopino, M.D., PhD, Nevada
      Senior Medical Advisor
      Physicians for Human Rights
    • Faraz Khan, M.D. Candidate, New York
      PHR Student Advisory Board
      Albany Medical College
    • Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, Maryland
      Dean, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    • Robert S. Lawrence, M.D., MACP, Maryland
      Founding Member, Board Member Emeritus, and Past Board Chair,
      Physicians for Human Rights
      Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    • Mark A. Levine, M.D., Colorado
      Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado
      Past Chair, AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs
    • Robert Jay Lifton, M.D., New York
      Lecturer in Psychiatry, Columbia University
      Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The City University of New York
    • Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., MPH, Maryland
      Dean and Professor, School of Public Health, University of Maryland
      Former Surgeon General of the United States
    • Elena O. Nightingale, M.D., PhD, District of Columbia
      Member and Scholar-In-Residence Emerita
      The National Academy of Medicine
    • Nizam Peerwani, M.D., Texas
      Chief Medical Examiner, Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas
      Forensic Consultant, Physicians for Human Rights
    • Steven J. Reisner, PhD, New York
      Psychological Ethics Advisor, Physicians for Human Rights
      Founding Member, Coalition for an Ethical Psychology
    • Josiah D. Rich, M.D., MPH, Rhode Island
      Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Brown University
      Director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights
      The Miriam Hospital
    • Linda Rosenstock, M.D., MPH, California
      Dean Emeritus and Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health
    • David Satcher, M.D., PhD, Georgia
      Morehouse School of Medicine
      Former Surgeon General of the United States
    • Stephen Soldz, PhD, Massachusetts
      Anti-Torture Advisor, Physicians for Human Rights
      Director, Social Justice and Human Rights
      Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis
    • Kerry J. Sulkowicz, M.D., New York
      Chair, Board of Directors, Physicians for Human Rights
    • Homer Venters, M.D., MS, New York
      Director of Programs, Physicians for Human Rights
    • Ronald Waldman, M.D., MPH, District of Columbia
      Professor of Global Health, Milken Institute School of
      Public Health, George Washington University
    • Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, FAAN, Maryland
      Chief Executive Officer, American Nurses Association Enterprise
    • Matthew K. Wynia, M.D., Colorado
      Director, Center for Bioethics and Humanities,
      University of Colorado
    • Brigadier General (Retired) Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., Maryland
      Former Erik Erikson Scholar
      The Austen Riggs Center
      Adjunct Professor, The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences