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May 23, 1986

Medical Ethics and the Issue of Torture

Author Affiliations

Executive Vice President American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2798-2799. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200100037

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From as early as 2000 BC, physicians have sworn to uphold the fundamental oaths that affirmed the sanctity of the physician's responsibilities to the patient. History chronicles the significant oaths—the Code of Hammurabi by the Babylonians, the Oath of Hippocrates during the Greek period, and in more recent years, the Code of Medical Ethics published in 1803 by Dr Thomas Percival, a physician as well as a philosopher. Without question, these provide the quintessential foundation of the profession of medicine.

In keeping with this long tradition, the Preamble of the American Medical Association's (AMA) Principles of Medical Ethics states: "The medical profession has long subscribed to a body of ethical statements developed primarily for the benefit of the patients. As a member of this profession, a physician must recognize responsibility not only to patients, but also to society, to other health professionals and to self." The Preamble goes on to