University of Minnesota

World Medical Association, Declaration of Hamburg on Support for Medical Doctors Refusing to Participate in, or to Condone, the Use of Torture or Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment (1997).


1. On the basis of a number of international ethical declarations and guidelines subscribed to by the medical profession, medical doctors throughout the world are prohibited from countenancing, condoning or participating in the practice of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures for any reason.
2. Primary among these declarations are the World Medical Association's International Code of Medical Ethics, Declaration of Geneva, Declaration of Tokyo, and Resolution on Physician Participation in Capital Punishment; the Standing Committee of European Doctors' Statement of Madrid; the Nordic Resolution Concerning Physician Involvement in Capital Punishment; and, the World Psychiatric Association's Declaration of Hawaii.
3. However, none of these declarations or statements addresses explicitly the issue of what protection should be extended to medical doctors if they are pressured, called upon, or ordered to take part in torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Nor do these declarations or statements express explicit support for, or the obligation to protect, doctors who encounter or become aware of such procedures.

4. The World Medical Association (WMA) hereby reiterates and reaffirms the responsibility of the organised medical profession:
i) to encourage doctors to honour their commitment as physicians to serve humanity and to resist any pressure to act contrary to the ethical principles governing their dedication to this task;
ii) to support physicians experiencing difficulties as a result of their resistance to any such pressure or as a result of their attempts to speak out or to act against such inhuman procedures; and,
iii) to extend its support and to encourage other international organisations, as well as the national member associations (NMAs) of the World Medical Association, to support physicians encountering difficulties as a result of their attempts to act in accordance with the highest ethical principles of the profession.
5. Furthermore, in view of the continued employment of such inhumane procedures in many countries throughout the world, and the documented incidents of pressure upon medical doctors to act in contravention to the ethical principles subscribed to by the profession, the WMA finds it necessary:
i) to protest internationally against any involvement of, or any pressure to involve, medical doctors in acts of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
ii) to support and protect, and to call upon its NMAs to support and protect, physicians who are resisting involvement in such inhuman procedures or who are working to treat and rehabilitate victims thereof, as well as to secure the right to uphold the highest ethical principles including medical confidentiality;
iii) to publicise information about and to support doctors reporting evidence of torture and to make known proven cases of attempts to involve physicians in such procedures; and,
iv) to encourage national medical associations to ask corresponding academic authorities to teach and investigate in all schools of medicine and hospitals the consequences of torture and its treatment, the rehabilitation of the survivors, the documentation of torture, and the professional protection described in this Declaration.

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