Can Doctors Be “Disbarred”?

5 comments March 2nd, 2010at 07:01am Posted by Eli

Looks like yesterday was Professional Misconduct Day on the NYT op-ed pages.

First, the torture doctors:

According to Justice Department memos released last year, the medical service opined that sleep deprivation up to 180 hours didn’t qualify as torture. It determined that confinement in a dark, small space for 18 hours a day was acceptable. It said detainees could be exposed to cold air or hosed down with cold water for up to two-thirds of the time it takes for hypothermia to set in. And it advised that placing a detainee in handcuffs attached by a chain to a ceiling, then forcing him to stand with his feet shackled to a bolt in the floor, “does not result in significant pain for the subject.”


The medical basis for these opinions was nonexistent. The Office of Medical Services cited no studies of individuals who had been subjected to these techniques. Its sources included a wilderness medical manual, the National Institute of Mental Health Web site and guidelines from the World Health Organization.


The shabbiness of the medical judgments, though, pales in comparison to the ethical breaches by the doctors and psychologists involved. Health professionals have a responsibility extending well beyond nonparticipation in torture; the historic maxim is, after all, “First do no harm.” These health professionals did the polar opposite.

Nevertheless, no agency — not the Pentagon, the C.I.A., state licensing boards or professional medical societies — has initiated any action to investigate, much less discipline, these individuals. They have ignored the gross and appalling violations by medical personnel. This is an unconscionable disservice to the thousands of ethical doctors and psychologists in the country’s service. It is not too late to begin investigations. They should start now.

And then the legal profession:

The Supreme Court has a chance to reinforce that fundamental protection in the case of Albert Holland. A Florida prisoner, he did everything he could to ensure that his lawyer filed his habeas corpus petition, which would allow the federal courts to review his state-court conviction for first-degree murder and other crimes.

He continually asked about it, and emphasized the importance of meeting the deadlines. The lawyer repeatedly assured Mr. Holland that he would take care of it, and then missed the habeas deadline. Mr. Holland was given a new lawyer, who argued that due to the first lawyer’s extreme negligence, the failure should be excused under “equitable tolling,” which allows for deadlines to be excused in the broader interests of justice.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit rejected the argument, ruling that even gross negligence by a lawyer does not provide a basis for equitable tolling. Unless there was “bad faith, dishonesty, divided loyalty, mental impairment,” or something of that magnitude, the court said, the deadline would stand.

Disgraceful behavior by Holland’s lawyer, and disgraceful behavior by the appeals court.  I don’t have high hopes for the Supreme Court, but I hope the criminally incompetent lawyer got disbarred (not holding my breath).  And any doctor who facilitated torture should be shunned and shamed, and never allowed to practice medicine ever again.

Entry Filed under: Judiciary,Media,Prisoners,Terrorism,Torture,Wankers


  • 1. jahy  |  March 12th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks 4 writing about the psychs who approve torture! We need 2 expose them as well as the freak lawyers! Pitiful country, pitiful administration-usa sad but true.

  • 2. nancy  |  March 15th, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    the article didnt answer the question in the title-candoctors be ‘disbarred’?
    can they have their licenses to practice medicine revoked? what authority can revoke medical licenses?

  • 3. nancy  |  March 15th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    who is this ‘Office of Medical Services’ that purportedly issued this opinion on permissible torture? i cant find them with google.
    and where is the report by the ‘Office of Medical Services’ on which the DOJ is basing their acceptable standards of torture?

  • 4. Shelly  |  March 10th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Yes, a doctor can have his or her medical license revoked. The authority responsible for investigating and suspending or revoking a doctors license is the State Medical Board. I’m not sure what th board would be called in other countries.

  • 5. Shelly  |  March 10th, 2012 at 5:11 pm


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