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May 23, 1986

Physicians and Human Rights

Author Affiliations

Plains, Ga

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2798. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200100036

When I was President, every US ambassador throughout the world was my personal human rights representative, and all American embassies were known to be havens for those being persecuted by their own leaders. The State Department had a top-level staff to deal with these problems and reports, and I often used the information received to intervene personally, when appropriate, with the top government officials. We wanted it always to be clearly understood that an important factor in the relationship between other nations and the United States was their current record on human rights.

Among the most important sources of information were concerned physicians, who were often free and able to observe the consequences of mental and physical abuse, including torture, and courageous enough to share the facts with those who were eager to redress the grievances. It is particularly gratifying to me to know that the American Medical Association will