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Letters to the Editor
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 20 page 25-26

Steven Sharfstein, M.D., immediate past president of APA, and Paul Appelbaum, M.D., a past president of APA and currently chair of APA's Council on Psychiatry and Law, respond:

The APA Position statement on Psychiatric Participation in interrogation of Detainees reflects many of Dr. Liberman's concerns. In precluding direct psychiatric participation in interrogations, APA specified that "being present in the interrogation room, asking or suggesting questions, or advising authorities on the use of specific techniques of interrogation with particular detainees" as examples of activities with which psychiatrists should not be involved. In our view, this represents a clear affirmation of the values of our profession, which preclude participation in activities in which coercion and deception are inherent (even if they do not rise to the level of torture).

APA's statement did note, however, a legitimate role for psychiatrists in educating investigative and law enforcement about mental illness and the possible detrimental effects of interrogations on detainees' well-being. Psychiatrists and other mental health advocates have fought for years to require such training for law enforcement personnel. It is not clear to us whether Dr. Liberman objects to such educational efforts, but from our perspective to have precluded such activity would have been wholly counterproductive to the well-being of detainees and others with mental disorders.

It was gratifying to us to note that the ama adopted an essentially similar position in the month following APA's action (Psychiatric News, July 7), and that the Royal College of Psychiatrists accepted a position that is nearly identical to APA's just a month after that.

Psychiatry, through the APA position statement, is the national and international leader in making clear a physician's obligations precluding participation in the interrogation of individual detainees. ▪

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