Category Archives: Week 4

Week 4: Reflection

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“The healthy man does not torture others – generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers”
Carl Jung

Torture

I completely agreed with Emma, Amie and Tamaryn’s  posts on Torture, concluding that torture in an unacceptable practice and in violation of Human Rights.

 

Tony discussed the implications and use of torture by physiotherapists, a side of this topic that I didn’t even think of  when I wrote my original post.  What about when a physiotherapist is causing unintentional pain and discomfort to an uncooprative bedridden patient with Alzheimers and Dementia with contractures and bedsores.  Let’s say this patient is not “compos mentis” and their family (right of attorney and legal guardian) have agreed to therapy as prescribed by her physician.  Now this patient is refusing any touch or movement…. If you stretch or mobilise her and it hurts, or she communicates that are you causing her pain just by touching her skin and she is refusing to do any movements or exercises, is this torture?  If you move her and she screams, and you continue with the stretches, although you know this pain perception is abnormal due to her cognitive state, are you torturing this patient?  This really made me think as most physiotherapists have been in this position.  I don’t believe that this is torture as we are not deliberately trying to cause pain to obtain something from her or to teach her a lesson or just because we are sadistic and want her to suffer.  We are trying to help her as a health care professional with the medical knowledge to know what physical and emotional reactions are appropriate or normal in terms of anatomical and physiological functioning.  As physiotherapists we know that the discomfort felt from stiffness with light stretches or mobilising exercises or supported positional changes (without forcing into end range etc), is more “soreness”, not painful as perceived.  Especially if this patient reacts with abnormal perceived pain with any touch (such as being washed, dressed, hair combed, teeth brushed etc). We are not doing any harm, but improving functional ability and preventing further damage or secondary complications through our treatment. Thus I believe in this instance we are not torturing the patient. This patient might view being washed by the nursing staff as torture, but those sound of mind know what is being done is esssential care and not harmful.  If a “compos mentis” patient refuses your treatment and you go against their will and force treatment on them, or hurt them on purpose by forcing stretches beyond subjective comfort or refusing to help them when they are in pain or discomfort, that is another story.   Marna also discussed this area of potential torture in patient care in her blog post.

 

Torture can also be seen as intentionally delaying essential care or providing minimal or refusing assistance or intervention causing a patient to remain in pain and suffer.  This is also against to Hippocratic oath and the HPCSA National Health Act and Health Professions Act, to do no harm.  This is what happened in the Steve Biko case I discussed in my original post.  Kim also discussed this and I found the words from one of the offending medical practitioners in this case, very central to this topic of allowing or assisting with torture due to the political or social context;  “a medical practitioner’s first responsibility is the well-being of his patient, and that a medical practitioner cannot subordinate his patient’s interest to extraneous considerations.” Tucker 1991

 

Still, torture is being used behind closed doors by police and military forces.
This is a 2013 video of the torture and violence inflicted on innocent human beings in South Africa:

 

What about the saying “an eye for an eye” or that a criminal such as a murderer or child rapist deserves to be violated or tortured and stripped of his Human Rights?  Well, in recent weeks, Carte Blanche ran a story of men that were accused of being child rapists only to be released after 3 months in prison where they were subjected to violence and were told that they “deserve to be tortured, violated in prison and suffer a painful death” by many in the community.  As there were no circumstantial evidence and forensics linking them to this, they were released and the actual guilty child rapist was identified by DNA analysis and charged. Do you even know how many innocent people go to prison for crimes they didn’t commit? This happened with another man who was “framed” by the police for allegedly killing his girlfriend, but only after spending time in prison and going through the process of appeal did the legal system prevail and found that evidence was fabricated and that he could not be linked to this murder. The court also found that the police maliciously pursued this young man and knowing that he was innocent, they tried to ruin his life.  So taking Human Rights away from prisoners or saying that they deserve to be violated or tortured, can never be the right answer.

 

I will end off with the words by Ghandi as quoted by Jackie and Jamie-Lee:

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”

 

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For PHT402 Professional Ethics Course – Week 4: Torture

 

Week 4: Torture & Human Rights

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“The argument cannot be that we should not torture because it does not work.
The argument must be that we should not torture because it is wrong.”
Jason Michelich 

human rights

Next month will mark the 36th anniversary of the death and case resolution of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who in 1977 died of head injuries sustained during interrogation/torture while in South African Security Police custody, with identified gross inadequacies in the medical management.  In addition, since 2008, Xenophobia hit South Africa like a disease, and it’s still relevant.  Many black South Africans living in the townships felt that the massive, uncontrolled influx of “illegal immigrants” or “asylum seekers” were taking the job opportunities from the “native black South Africans”, which has led to acts of Xenophobia (including discrimination, violence and torture) in a community already suffering from social crises and poverty.  The concern needs to be on the protection of the human rights of all human beings, including foreign nationals.  Another relevant issue of  torture and human rights violation occurred in the South African “Marikana” massacre in 2012, with 44 deaths and 76 injured South Africans.  Police brutality (lethal use of force) reared its ugly head again, but this time it was not the white Apartheid Police Force firing upon black South Africans, it was the “new South African” Police Force, firing on their own people, supposedly in self-defense and crowd control.  The South African president commissioned an inquiry to investigate matters of public, national and international concern arising out of the tragic incidents at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana.  Should the police have acted so brutally and opened fire on all the strikers or just those that were attacking them, those that “initiated” the attack?  What about those human beings, the “strikers”, who were shot in the back as they were running away and those that were “gunned down” and even tortured before death?

These events have led to Amnesty International publishing a document in 2012 on the current status of and recommendations to the South African Prevention and Combating of Torture of Persons Bill, urging that its scope be expanded to reflect the full extent of South Africa’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to uphold and protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.  As we have discussed in week 3 on the topic of equality, violating, suppressing basic human rights of any human being, is legally, morally and ethically wrong.

There has also been much talk and controversy surrounding the 2013 released blockbuster “Zero Dark Thirty” as it depicts the use of military and intelligence interrogation and torture-practices in the “fight against terror”.  Torture, carried out or sanctioned by individuals, groups and states throughout history from ancient times to modern day, is the act of deliberately inflicting intense physical pain, combined with emotional/psychological stress and deprivation of basic care and needs, to a person who is unable to protect himself.  The reasons for torture include interrogation, punishment, revenge, political or the sadistic gratification.  Many support the anti-torture argument on the fact that torture is hugely unreliable means of obtaining information, that often turns out to be redundant or misleading.  Others argue that the “well-being and protection of defenseless human beings and for the greater good of the country” it is more important than the issue of violating Human Rights of  a terrorist or criminal/prisoner of war.  Pro-torture individuals or groups often state that “brutalization brings breakthroughs”, and that torture is at times necessary or required to gain valuable intelligence/insight/information to stop future attacks/violence and to bring criminals/terrorists to justice.  For me, more importantly, and from a Human Rights point of view, torture is morally and ethically wrong.

We all know that terrorist activity violates various Human Rights, including the right to life; rights to non-discrimination, including equal rights for women and girls; right to a fair trial; freedom of religion and belief; freedom of expression and information; the right to vote and participate in public affairs etc.  Therefore, measures against terrorism can have an important role in protecting human rights but counter-terrorism laws can also have a profound impact in limiting fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the right to a fair trial; the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to freedom of expression; the right to freedom of movement; the right to privacy; the right to non-discrimination and the right to an effective remedy for a breach of human rights.

So the question is, should a terrorist “loose” his rights as a human being?  What about a criminal who took the life of an innocent human being or child?  Should he/she still have rights?  I believe we should respect the rule of law and the principle of upholding fundamental rights and freedoms, for all, even when we personally feel that a person (terrorist or criminal) is not deserving of any rights as a human being.

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For PHT402 Professional Ethics Course:  Week 4 – Torture & Human Rights