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American Psychological Association Closes Loophole in Ethics Code, but More Code Reforms Needed

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) applauds last week's action by the American Psychological Association (APA) amending section 1.02 of its 2002 code of professional ethics. Since 2006, PHR and the Coalition for Ethical Psychology have been campaigning for the APA to remove language from its ethics code allowing a psychologist to violate other provisions of the code if done to comply with "law, regulations, or other governing legal authority." The new language restores the 1992 version of the code, which prohibits use of the standard "to justify or defend violating human rights."

"This move by the APA is an important step towards meaningful ethics reform, and PHR's constituents and allies made it happen," states Frank Donaghue, Chief Executive Officer of PHR. "However, the APA has more to do before its standards of professional ethics are fully restored."

Section 1.02 was inserted into the APA ethics code in August 2002, and was used by both the APA and the Bush Administration to allow the participation of psychologists in the "enhanced interrogation" program, in which detainees were systematically abused and tortured under the supervision of health professionals. PHR is calling for the APA to also reform section 8.05 of the 2002 ethics code, which allows research on human subjects without their consent if such research comports with law or regulations.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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Kevin Short

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