The issue of ethical responsibility is always in question especially in the medical and allied medical fields. The article “Psychologists Clash on Aiding Interrogations” (Carey, 2008) tackles this issue in the context of the services rendered by psychologists to military operations involving the interrogation of detainees.
The article points out certain details regarding this issue; among others, those tackled were the issue of this type of assistance and its relevance to the American Psychologists’ Association Code of ethics, the consideration of international laws in the performance of a psychologist’s duties, the ethical responsibilities of a psychologist to the person being interrogated, the relationship of the APA to the practice of its members, and the individual integrity of psychologists who chose to collaborate with the military in interrogatory operations.
An initial approach to this issue would be to consider the role of psychologists in society in the context or professionalism. Base on the preamble of the APA Code of conduct, psychologists are “committed to increasing scientific and professional knowledge of behavior and people’s understanding of themselves and others and to the use of such knowledge to improve the condition of individuals, organizations, and society” (APA, 1992), in addition, psychologist should “respect and protect civil and human rights and the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and publication.
They strive to help the public in developing informed judgments and choices concerning human behavior. ” (APA, 1992) Certain features can be easily gleaned from these APA passages; to note in particular are the psychologist’s roles in the development of academic knowledge in the field, the fostering of individual and social understanding, and in promoting and preserving individual, organizational, (your family name) 3 and social welfare. Over and above these professional roles are the particular attention given to civil and human rights and the freedom of inquiry and expression.
In this context there is no argument as to whether the psychological profession in general should concede to working with the military in interrogatory operations – the mere fact that these interrogations do not serve the purposes of the profession as outlined above and may even be violations of certain civil and human rights simply shows that participating in military interrogations can be against the APA code of ethics. However, if the last part of the passage is considered, which concerns the preservation of individual, organization, and social welfare, psychologist participation in interrogations may actually serve this end.
If the purpose of the military interrogation is to preserve the established order and the issue is national security, then psychologists being accountable, not only to their patients but also to their country, should do well by assisting the military in their operations. This is the argument put out by certain psychologists who have been found to be collaborating with the military – that they did not do anything to cause harm to any of the subjects of interrogation, rather, they merely ensured that the subjects were not caused any harm.
In addition, they claimed to also be performing their duties to their country. Another perspective should be considered in this issue – the reports that have been going around that psychologists have been assisting the “CIA and the military in developing abusive interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects” (Benjamin, 2007), that psychologists have collaborated with the military in the military’s secretive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program to “reverse-engineer” techniques originally designed to train U.
S. soldiers to resist torture if captured, by exposing them to brutal treatment. ” (Benjamin, 2007). These grim (your family name) 4 reports bring the issue of civil and human rights into the picture. In a profession that is easily abused as to its practice, civil and human rights should be protected at all costs, but what if those who are supposed to protect these rights are the ones violating the rights themselves?
The military and psychology is a very unlikely and dangerous mix, with the former working for national security under the protection of national and international law, and the latter working for the advancement of the psychological profession which incidentally could be of valuable use to the military, and with only the APA Code of Ethics standing in the way, possibilities can be very scary – think Nazi concentration camp style.
However, certain arguments point out that psychologists, like their military counterparts are able to set aside the APA Code of Ethics in the interest of national or international law. In the results of a 20025 APA Taskforce, it was implicitly implied that “psychologists can ignore their ethical code if a governing authority (in this case, the U. S. Military) asks them to do so.
” (Reiss, 2007) This implication is based on no less than the the APA’s code of conduct, which states, in full, “If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict. If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority. ” (APA, 1992)
This brings the issue to a whole new level – instead of the issue being an organizational or professional concern, it becomes a concern of individual integrity, which, by the way, becomes blurry when an individual is offered lucrative benefits and perks in exchange for that (your family name) 5 integrity. While the issue is obviously one that concerns not only the military, or the field of psychology, but the safety and welfare of even the most hostile subject of an interrogation, the APA Task Force served to bring the issue down to a more personal level to dismiss whatever argument is raised by the profession as a whole.
Now, it is basically a question of, “As a psychologist, are you personally inclined to assist the military in their interrogatory operations even when these operations can be inhumane and can violate civil and human rights as long as the operations are within the “requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” (APA, 1992)?
” Many a psychologist would find an easy answer to this question, because this question does not require a psychologist to consult any code of ethics or any law; it simply requires that the psychologist go through the process of self-discernment and consider, first and foremost, his/her reasons for choosing the psychology profession, his/her commitments to the people that he/she serves, and his/her priorities in exercising his/her profession. The issue of whether psychologists should collaborate with the military in developing interrogation techniques that may be inhumane is beyond the jurisdiction of any law or code.
This issue is a question of morality and integrity, which, in themselves, are very subjective areas of abstraction. In a moment of personal thought, psychologists should at least put themselves in the shoes of the victims of these inhumane interrogation – knowledge is indeed power, “and power corrupts” (Acton, 1887) Psychologists wield a considerable amount of knowledge with their training in the profession, and it is up to them whether they would use this knowledge to harm their fellow humans or not. (your family name) 6
The solution to this problem lies in the individual integrities of psychologists. Each psychologist should maintain an internal regulatory mechanism when participating in these operations. The secret is being able to say ‘no’ when what is being asked to be done is beyond our personal conviction, ideals, and the moral standards governing the profession. While laws and codes can only do so much in regulating what psychologists can do, these also serve as roads signs for psychologists so that they may be constantly reminded if they are already overstepping in their profession.
On the issue of national security, some argue that the life of one can sometimes be dispensable for the life of all; this argument is a blind interpretation of the truth. Life, whether it be of only one, or of all is still life, and should not be meddled with in any aspect. Where does this put the psychologists conceding to collaborations with the military? In as much as we all want to believe in the integrity of our own chosen professions, we have to have faith in the individual and inherent goodness of man.
We cannot condemn psychologists who work for the military just because we think what they are doing is inhumane, and it is also not up to us to pass personal judgment regarding the military’s motives; but in as much as we have hope and confidence in the rationality and discernment of human beings, we might as well advocate integrity and morality as a whole, not only in the field of psychology.
Individual issues and motivations of psychologists cannot be questioned by a raging mob – but we can sure make them see the truth, and remind them of their commitment to the welfare of all, and not just for the satisfaction of brute and barbaric interests. (your family name)
Works Cited Acton, John Emerich D. “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. ” The Phrase Finder. 1887. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www. phrases. org. uk/meanings/288200. html>.
APA. “Ethical Principles Of Psychologists And Code Of Conduct. ” APA Online. 2003. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www. apa. org/ethics/code2002.html#preamble>. Benjamin, Mark. “The CIA’s torture teachers. ” Salon. com. 21 June 2007. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www. salon. com/news/feature/2007/06/21/cia_sere/index. html>. Carey, Benedict. “U. S. psychologists debate role in military interrogations. ” International Heral Tribune – The Americas. 16 Aug. 2008. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www. iht. com/articles/2008/08/16/america/ethics. php>. Reiss, Natalie S. “The Psychologist’s Role in Military Interrogations. ” Mentalhelp. net. 3 Aug. 2007. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www. mentalhelp. net/poc/view_doc. php? type=weblog&id=258&wlid=6&cn=220>.