Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Re-engaging Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain A Thirtieth Anniversary Retrospective, 10th-11th Dec 2015, University of Brighton

Progressive Geographies

9352807Re-engaging Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain A Thirtieth Anniversary Retrospective 10th-11th December 2015 Grand Parade University of Brighton, UK

Understanding Conflict Research Cluster Critical Studies Research Group

Keynotes: Prof Elaine Scarry and Prof Joanna Bourke

The year 2015 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain. In this seminal text, Scarry offers a radical and original thesis on the relationship between embodiment, pain, wounding and imagining, arguing that pain is central to “the making and unmaking of the world”. Widely regarded as a classic, the text has influenced work on notions of the body, war, torture and pain in a variety of academic disciplines – from philosophy, to anthropology, to cultural geography, to political theory, to many others – as well as informing debates and discussions in medical science, NGOs, charities and other parts of society. In the years since its publication the text has only become…

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March 15, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror’

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From the summary at Full Text Reports (November 6, 2013)

Source: Institute on Medicine as a Profession and Open Society Institute (via Harvard Law School)

the task Force has determined that actions taken by the U.s. government immediately following 9/11 included three key elements affecting the role of health professionals in detention centers:

1. The declaration that as part of a “war on terror,” individuals captured and detained in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere were “unlawful combatants” who did not qualify as prisoners of war under the geneva conventions. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice approved of interrogation methods recognized domestically and internationally as constituting torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

2. The DoD and CIA’s development of internal mechanisms to direct the participation of military and intelligence-agency physicians and psychologists in abusive interrogation and breaking of hunger strikes. Although the involvement of health professionals in human rights violations against detainees progressed differently in the military and the CIA, both facilitated that involvement in similar ways, including undermining health professionals’ allegiances to established principles of professional ethics and conduct through reinterpretation of those principles.
[my emphasis – Janice]

3. The secrecy surrounding detention policies that prevailed until 2004– 2005, when leaked documents began to reveal those policies. secrecy allowed the unlawful and unethical interrogation and mistreatment of detainees to proceed unfettered by established ethical principles and standards of conduct as well as societal, professional, and nongovernmental commentary and legal review.

These key elements, as well as the task Force’s recommendations for remediating the participation of health professionals in detainee torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, are summarized below and addressed in detail in the body of this report.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | health care, Psychiatry | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

[Press Release] Torture permanently damages normal perception of pain

From the Tel Aviv University press release as reported at the 5 November 2013

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
5-Nov-2013

 
Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University 

Torture permanently damages normal perception of pain

Tel Aviv University researchers study the long-term effects of torture on the human pain system

Israeli soldiers captured during the 1973 Yom Kippur War were subjected to brutal torture in Egypt and Syria. Held alone in tiny, filthy spaces for weeks or months, sometimes handcuffed and blindfolded, they suffered severe beatings, burns, electric shocks, starvation, and worse. And rather than receiving treatment, additional torture was inflicted on existing wounds.

Forty years later, research by Prof. Ruth Defrin of the Department of Physical Therapy in the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University shows that the ex-prisoners of war (POWs), continue to suffer from dysfunctional pain perception and regulation, likely as a result of their torture. The study — conducted in collaboration with Prof. Zahava Solomon and Prof. Karni Ginzburg of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work and Prof. Mario Mikulincer of the School of Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya — was published in the European Journal of Pain.

“The human body’s pain system can either inhibit or excite pain. It’s two sides of the same coin,” says Prof. Defrin. “Usually, when it does more of one, it does less of the other. But in Israeli ex-POWs, torture appears to have caused dysfunction in both directions. Our findings emphasize that tissue damage can have long-term systemic effects and needs to be treated immediately.”

A painful legacy

The study focused on 104 combat veterans of the Yom Kippur War. Sixty of the men were taken prisoner during the war, and 44 of them were not. In the study, all were put through a battery of psychophysical pain tests — applying a heating device to one arm, submerging the other arm in a hot water bath, and pressing a nylon fiber into a middle finger. They also filled out psychological questionnaires.

The ex-POWs exhibited diminished pain inhibition (the degree to which the body eases one pain in response to another) and heightened pain excitation (the degree to which repeated exposure to the same sensation heightens the resulting pain). Based on these novel findings, the researchers conclude that the torture survivors’ bodies now regulate pain in a dysfunctional way.

It is not entirely clear whether the dysfunction is the result of years of chronic pain or of the original torture itself. But the ex-POWs exhibited worse pain regulation than the non-POW chronic pain sufferers in the study. And a statistical analysis of the test data also suggested that being tortured had a direct effect on their ability to regulate pain.

Head games

The researchers say non-physical torture may have also contributed to the ex-POWs’ chronic pain. Among other forms of oppression and humiliation, the ex-POWs were not allowed to use the toilet, cursed at and threatened, told demoralizing misinformation about their loved ones, and exposed to mock executions. In the later stages of captivity, most of the POWs were transferred to a group cell, where social isolation was replaced by intense friction, crowding, and loss of privacy.

“We think psychological torture also affects the physiological pain system,” says Prof. Defrin. “We still have to fully analyze the data, but preliminary analysis suggests there is a connection.”

 

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American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel’s leading, most comprehensive and most sought-after center of higher learning, Tel Aviv University (TAU). Rooted in a pan-disciplinary approach to education, TAU is internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship — attracting world-class faculty and consistently producing cutting-edge work with profound implications for the future. TAU is independently ranked 116th among the world’s top universities and #1 in Israel. It joins a handful of elite international universities that rank among the best producers of successful startups.

 

 

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

Human Obedience: The Myth of Blind Conformity

From the 20 November 2012 article at Science NewsDaily

…”Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right,” Professor Haslam explained.

Professor Reicher, of the University of St Andrews, added that it is not that they were blind to the evil they were perpetrating, but rather that they knew what they were doing, and believed it to be right.”…

 

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Interrogational Torture Effective Or Purely Sadistic?

From the 29 March 2012 article at Medical News Today

While government officials have argued that “enhanced interrogation techniques” are necessary to protect American citizens, the effectiveness of such techniques has been debated. According to a recent study, when torture is used to elicit information, it is likely to be unexpectedly harsh yet ineffective. This study was published in a new article in Political Research Quarterly (PRQ) published by SAGE on behalf of the Western Political Science Association.

John W. Schiemann, author of the study and a political scientist at Fairleigh Dickinson University, found that information gleaned from interrogational torture is very likely to be unreliable, and when torture techniques are employed, they are likely to be used too frequently and too harshly. Furthermore, he found that for torture to generate even small amounts of valuable information in practice, the State must make the rational calculation to torture innocent detainees for telling the truth in order to maintain torture as a threat against those who withhold information.

Schiemann wrote, “Interrogators will continue to use torture and to increase its intensity in an attempt to ensure the detainee’s threshold is low enough to make him talk.” …

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | | Leave a comment

New forms of torture leave ‘invisible scars’, say researchers

From the 31 December 2011 Queen Mary University of London press release

se of torture around the world has not diminished but the techniques used have grown more complex and sophisticated, according to new research from Queen Mary, University of London.

The study suggests that these emerging forms of torture, which include various types of rape, bestiality and witnessing violent acts, are experienced by people seeking asylum in the UK.

In many cases the techniques cause no visible effect but are responsible for a variety of serious mental health problems. The researchers say that their findings are vital for understanding what many asylum seekers have endured and for ensuring the correct medical treatments are available.

The majority of countries signed a UN convention banning all forms of torture almost thirty years ago but the new research joins a body of evidence showing that the use of torture not only persists but is also widespread.,,,

Read the entire article

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | | Leave a comment

Crossing The Line: What Constitutes Torture?

From the 12 April 2011 Medical News Today article

Torture. The United Nations defines it as the “infliction of severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” But how severe is severe? That judgment determines whether or not the law classifies an interrogation practice as torture.

Now, a study published in an upcoming issue ofPsychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, condemns this method of classification as essentially flawed.

[For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here ]

The reason: The people estimating the severity of pain aren’t experiencing that pain-so they underestimate it.

As a result, many acts of torture are not classified-or prohibited-as torture, say authors, Loran F. Nordgren of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Mary-Hunter Morris of Harvard Law School, and George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University.

The researchers were moved to undertake the study by their alarm at the Bush Administration’s defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as stresspostures and waterboarding. In court and the media, officials minimized the psychological and physical distress caused by these techniques-and insisted they were not torture.

In this denial, the authors saw a perfect demonstration of a psychological phenomenon called the “empathy gap,” says Loewenstein: “People in one affective state”-hunger, anger, pain-“cannot appreciate or predict another one.” If you’re warm, you can’t imagine the misery of being cold; if you’re rested, sleep deprivation doesn’t seem so bad…

…The study’s conclusion: “The legal standard for evaluating torture is psychologically untenable.”

So what can be done? First, overcompensate. “Knowing that we tend to be biased toward not counting torture as torture, we should define torture very liberally, very inclusively,” says Loewenstein. And don’t trust empathy. “This is an area where we can’t rely on our emotional system to guide us. We have to use our intellect.”

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

   

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