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Torture. 2008;18(2):99-103.

Medical students' attitudes toward torture.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois College of Medicine-Chicago, IL, USA.


Torture, whether it be domestic or war related, is a public health issue of current concern. It is the position of the American Medical Association (AMA), The World Medical Association (WMA), the United Nations Declaration and the Geneva Convention, that torture is unethical, "morally wrong" and never to be condoned. The attitudes of medical students, our future physicians, will be critical in reducing the incidence of torture. The purpose of this investigation was to assess medical students' attitudes regarding the permissibility and ethics of the use of torture. A University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine's Institutional Review Board approved torture questionnaire was administered to 336 students of the University of Illinois College of Medicine. 35 percent of students agreed that torture could be "condoned" under some circumstances. Moreover, 24 percent of respondents disagreed that torture should "be prohibited" as a matter of state policy and a similar 24 percent disagreed that torture was "intrinsically wrong." It is concluded that most students felt that torture was "not permissible" and "intrinsically wrong", a disturbing 27 percent-35 percent felt that it could be permitted or condoned at times. Moreover, 27 percent felt that torture was not unethical. Given the strong condemnation of torture by the AMA, the WMA and the Geneva Convention these medical student attitudes, albeit by a minority of students, are disturbing. It is suggested that medical school curriculum committees review this matter.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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