Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Pakistani doctor who is hailed as a hero in the US Congress

I have been thinking about the case of the Pakistani doctor who is hailed in US Congress for aiding the US government by giving Pakistanis ineffective medicine to obtain DNA data from the Bin Laden household .  So I asked a friend who is a professor at the Harvard medical school about his opinion on the matter especially that he has been on various committees investigating ethical violations at major US medical centers.  He wrote me this (I cite with his permission):
"Are you kidding me? He would lose his medical license, his hospital admission and privileges, would be expelled from all medical organizations, and prosecuted and most likely jailed for a number of years.
So what did he do to deserve such a fate in the US?
He violated three major rules relating to medical practice: He conducted medical services under false pretenses, claiming to be who he is not. He gave an ineffective medicine (one shot of the Hepatitis B vaccine instead of three, thus giving his subjects false sense of security), and he violated his subjects privacy (in the US, the HIPPA rules), by sharing their information with a third party (the CIA) without the patients' knowledge or approval. This is aside from the issue of being a spy or that he and his organization has violated Pakistani laws regarding NGO function etc.
To my mind, it is sobering that the CIA went that low on this operation, abusing . But what is new?
Re the doctor, it is a grave scandal of utmost seriousness, and one that has not been addressed by the medical organs (New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JAMA etc). But remember, the NEJM did not write anything about the issue of torture until mid 2004, and thereafter rather sparingly, considering the gravity of the situation (you can access the NEJM website at NEJM.org and search under torture. There are 42 publications over the last 10 yrs, maybe half relate to the terror wars [including correspondence]). Also, no doctor or medical staffer has ever faced disciplinary action because of involvement in torture related to the recent wars. So, you have a curious yet not surprising discrepancy of two different sets of policy practices applied within versus outside the US. The WHO should have been up in arms about it, but the criticism to my mind has been tepid."