Many Americans, especially minorities, are no strangers to arbitrary and capricious police behavior and abuse. But a case reported yesterday by Lowering the Bar had an extra horrid dimension: the willing participation of doctors in abusing a man in police custody.
There have always been doctors willing to collaborate with authorities in doing a great deal of harm, and not just in Nazi Germany. A report released this week details medical collaboration with torture in the US “War on Terror”. There are still doctors who participate in executions in the US.
You would think these situations are no-brainers. If you are a doctor and a legal authority asks you to torture someone, say no, right? But humans are complex and can reason themselves into all sorts of horrible behavior. According to the complaint, police in Deming, NM picked up David Eckert and took him to the hospital in order to have him tortured (that wording is mine). The first hospital they stopped at refused to cooperate, but the cops struck gold at Gila Regional Medical Center.
The doctors there reportedly subjected Eckert to multiple radiologic procedures, multiple rectal exams, and multiple enemas. And then a colonoscopy. Because the cops wanted it. And then they billed Eckert for their services.
While any rational human being would find this abhorrent, lets rehash the details:
1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.
There is no excuse for this behavior. There is no way to twist medical ethics to allow doctors to physically and emotionally assault a patient. There is no authority that can or should compel a doctor to do this.
It’s really quite simple: if, as a doctor, a police officer orders you to sodomize a patient, you say “no”. Doctors should never aid authorities, military or law enforcement, in torturing, killing, or maiming. No excuses.
Given the limp history of state medical boards, I presume the doctors involved won’t face official sanctions, but perhaps the legal system that allowed Eckert’s torture (there was a warrant, sort of) will help bring some measure of justice.
Addendum: the local news outlet is reporting another case nearly identical to this one, with the same medical center serving as the cops’ personal torture service.