Military interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been given access to the medical records of individual prisoners, a breach of patient confidentiality that ethicists describe as a violation of international medical standards designed to protect captives from inhumane treatment.
The files, which contain individual medical histories and other personal information about prisoners, have been made available to interrogators despite continued objections from the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post. After discovering the practice in mid-2003, the Red Cross refused to send medical monitoring teams to the facility for more than six months, sources said.
There is no universally established international law governing medical confidentiality. But ethics experts said international medical standards bar sharing such information with interrogators to ensure it is not used to pressure prisoners to talk by withholding medicine or by using personal information to torment a detainee.
“I don’t think any American medical worker, doctor, nurse should go along with this,” said Arthur L. Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. “The role of health care workers in any facility should be solely looking after the health of patients; anybody who is not involved in that should not have access to medical records.”
How military interrogators used the information is unknown. But a previously undisclosed Defense Department memo dated Oct. 9 cites Red Cross complaints that the medical files “are being used by interrogators to gain information in developing an interrogation plan.” Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the facility at the time, denied the allegations, according to the memo..