For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) today sent a letter to the Saudi Arabian Minister of Health to support Saudi physicians and hospitals who have refused to inflict punitive harm on their patients. The text of the letter follows:
His Excellency Dr. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Rabeeah
The Minister of Health
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The American College of Physicians (ACP) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) would like to indicate our support for those Saudi Arabian physicians and hospitals who have refused to participate in the intentional infliction of a spinal cord injury as retribution for an alleged attack by an individual that resulted in another person's paralysis. Consistent with the principle of nonmaleficence in medical ethics — to do no harm — we are confident that the use of medical facilities, procedures and personnel to maim human beings is, under all circumstances including the punishment of convicted criminals, abhorrent to physicians everywhere.
According to the ACP Ethics Manual, "the physician must respect the dignity of all persons” and "under no circumstances is it ethical for a physician to … participate in or tolerate cruel or unusual punishment or disciplinary activities.” Physicians are ethically obligated to comply with the international laws regarding the treatment of prisoners, including Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Our responsibility as physicians is to relieve suffering and not inflict it. Our obligation as professional societies is to speak out against physician participation in practices that breach medical ethics.
ACP and PHR stand with all those physicians in Saudi Arabia who, conforming to international law and universal principles of medical ethics, have declined and continue to decline to participate in any order of a spinal cord injury, or any punishment that would involve health professionals or cruel and inhumane practices.
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.