Oath Betrayed

Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror

Steven H. Miles

Random House, $23.95, 220 pp.

Steven H. Miles, University of Minnesota geriatrician, regularly and courageously brings ethical questions about health care into the political arena. One might even say he believes the practice of medicine is a political act. In 1991, when disputes were raging about whether physicians could withhold treatment from patients demanding interventions their physicians thought futile, Miles petitioned a court for permission to deny ventilator treatment to Helga Wanglie, who was in a persistent vegetative state. In 2000, he ran unsuccessfully in the Minnesota Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, campaigning for universal health insurance and against economic sanctions in foreign policy. In 2005, Miles quit the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities over its policy against making political statements. Torture has now become his focus. He has spoken to the media and medical societies, and written articles documenting allegations of physician complicity. Oath Betrayed is the culmination of this work.

The book is far more than an indictment of physicians. First and foremost, Miles accuses the whole of the American people. The United States is now a “torturing society,” Miles claims, which has aided other torturing societies and now tortures and kills prisoners systematically in the “war on terror.” In light of this premise, Oath Betrayed involves physicians secondarily because, as Miles puts it, “a...

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About the Author

Daniel P. Sulmasy, OFM, is professor of medicine and ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of Chicago.