Category Archive for 'vincent iacopino'

Every summer, I promise myself that I’ll make the time to time to read the books that I’ve been meaning to get to all year. Whether I’m parked in front of the air conditioning or in the last light of dusk on the porch, there’s just something great about reading that’s not assigned. Summer is my chance to choose what I want to read: something fun, something that will deepen my understanding of the world, or something that will inspire me to return to work with renewed commitment, awareness, and energy. I want to read something that is indulgent, informative, and inspirational.

The PHR National Student Program is busy this summer, expanding and improving the resources available to Chapters. Among other things, we’re creating lists to help you discover new resources and opportunities. In honor of summer reading lists, I wanted to give you a glimpse of our new Recommended Reading list.

Here’s a list of some excellent books, articles, and blog posts that will appear on the Recommended Reading list. Most were suggested by PHR staff and interns. Although Laurie Garrett’s 800-page Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health might not be everyone’s idea of an ideal beach read, it might be just what you’ve been looking for.

Have a favorite that you didn’t see here? Maybe something that inspired your interest in health or human rights, or offered a new perspective on a topic near and dear to your heart? Post it in the Comments section below, and we might include it in the final version of the Recommended Reading list.


Health and Human Rights: A Reader, Jonathan Mann, Michael A. Grodin, Sofia Gruskin, and George J. Annas.  (1999)

Perspectives on Health and Human Rights, Sofia Gruskin, Michael A. Grodin, George J. Annas, and Stephen P. Marks.  (2005)

These texts are often used in health and human rights courses.  Both are comprehensive anthologies of foundational essays on health and human rights, and examine issues from ethnic cleansing to women’s reproductive rights.

The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire, Khassan Baiev and Ruth Daniloff. Dr. Baiev was caught in the the struggle between Chechnya and Russia. Regardless of their nationality or whether civilian or military, he treated everybody under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.  Considered a traitor to both sides, he was called a “bandit-doctor” (for treating Chechens) and a “pig-doctor” (for treating Russians). For years, PHR has worked to protect Colleagues at Risk – clinicians who are targeted for adhering to their Hippocratic Oath, despite the political situation.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman. Described by various PHR staff as “fantastic,” “riveting,” and “devastating and totally addictive,” this describes the clash of two cultures over a child’s health. Anne Fadiman writes with the insight of an anthropologist and the compassion of a friend. I worked with refugees for years, and I also saw heartbreaking conflict between people who each had a patient’s best interests at heart, but had very different beliefs about illness and health.

Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health, Laurie Garrett.  As in another of Garrett’s massive tomes, The Coming Plague, Garrett uses investigative reporting to analyze public health preparedness.

The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist’s Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, Clea Koff. Koff takes the reader inside her life as a forensic anthropologist to see what it’s like to excavate mass graves and build evidence of human rights violations. PHR’s International Forensic Program relies on these skills in Afghanistan, Central America, and elsewhere.

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, Jane Mayer. This dramatic narrative reveals the decisions behind the controversial excesses of the war on terror and considers the impact of these choices. For more background and an update, visit PHR’s reports on torture of US detainees.

PHR Reports

From Persecution to Prison: The Health Consequences of Detention for Asylum Seekers. Asylum seekers who come to the U.S. to escape torture, persecution, violence or abuse are often locked up in inhuman conditions. PHR conducted the first systematic and comprehensive study about the impact of detention on asylum seekers’ mental health.

Achieving the MDGs by Investing in Human Resources for Health and The Right to Health and Health Workforce Planning. Access to healthcare depends in large part on the ability and distribution of a country’s health workforce. Investments that sidestep the training, payment and supervision of healthcare workers do not build the overall health system.

Stateless and Starving: Persecuted Rohingya Flee Burma and Starve in Bangladesh. In recent months Bangladeshi authorities have waged an unprecedented campaign of arbitrary arrest, illegal expulsion and forced internment against Burmese refugees. In this emergency report, PHR presents new data and documents dire conditions for these persecuted Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. PHR’s medical investigators warn that critical levels of acute malnutrition and a surging camp population without access to food aid will cause more deaths from starvation and disease if the humanitarian crisis is not addressed.


Health and Human Rights is published by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University. The original editor-in-chief was Jonathan Mann, succeed by Sofia Gruskin and then Paul Farmer, all pioneers in the field. By posing the question, “What is a rights-based approach to health and why should we care?” this issue began a series that dealt with fundamental concepts regarding health as a human right.  Subsequent issues tackle accountability (10:2), participation (11:1), and non-discrimination and equality (11:2). The series concludes with the most recent issue on international assistance and cooperation, edited by Jennifer Leaning, the new FXB director and a former PHR Board member. All material is freely available online.

Health and Human Rights Education in U.S. Schools of Medicine and Public Health: Current Status and Future Challenges, L. Emily Cotter et al.  PHR’s Senior Medical Advisor Vince Iacopino and the other authors evaluated obstacles to health and human rights education at schools of medicine and public health across the country.

Health and Human Rights, Jonathan Mann et al. A close look at the complementary ways that health and human rights define and advance human well-being:

  • The Impact of Health Policies, Programs and Practices on Human Rights
  • Health Impacts Resulting from Violations of Human Rights
  • The Inextricable Linkage Between Health and Human Rights

The Challenge of Global Health, Laurie Garrett. Garrett’s critique of misdirected investment in global health got a strong reaction from the media and the global health establishment. Don’t miss the exchange between Paul Farmer and Laurie Garrett. Although the funding and policy environment has evolved since this was published, it’s a glimpse of a critical moment in global health.

Blog posts

The Right to Health: A Conversation with Helen Potts, PhD on the Physicians for Human Rights site. An informative and comprehensive look at the history and meaning of the right to health.

Refugees in America: Faces and Stories Behind the Refugee Protection Act. This post by Erin Hustings, PHR’s Asylum Advocacy Associate, on the PHR blog Health Rights Advocate, offers a personalized look at the refugees who are denied asylum in the United States because of unnecessary obstacles and technicalities.


A team of PHR doctors authored the new white paper, “Aiding Torture: Health Professionals’ Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 Inspector General’s Report.”

Note: There is a file embedded within this post, please visit this post to download the file.

The report details how the CIA relied on medical expertise to rationalize and carry out abusive and unlawful interrogations. It also refers to aggregate collection of data on detainees’ reaction to interrogation methods. PHR is concerned that this data collection and analysis may amount to human experimentation and calls for more investigation on this point. If confirmed, the development of a research protocol to assess and refine the use of the waterboard or other techniques would likely constitute a new, previously unknown category of ethical violations committed by CIA physicians and psychologists.

In a statement today, Scott Allen, MD, PHR’s Medical Advsisor and lead author of the report, said:

Medical doctors and psychologists colluded with the CIA to keep observational records about waterboarding, which approaches unethical and unlawful human experimentation. Interrogators would place a cloth over a detainee’s face to block breathing and induce feelings of fear, helplessness, and a loss of control. A doctor would stand by to monitor and calibrate this physically and psychologically harmful act, which amounts to torture. It is profoundly unsettling to learn of the central role of health professionals in laying a foundation for US government lawyers to rationalize the CIA’s illegal torture program.

Steven Reisner, PhD, PHR’s Psychological Ethics Advisor and report co-author, said:

The required presence of health professionals did not make interrogation methods safer, but sanitized their use, escalated abuse, and placed doctors and psychologists in the untenable position of calibrating harm rather than serving as protectors and healers. The fact that psychologists went beyond monitoring, and actually designed and implemented these abuses — while simultaneously serving as ’safety monitors’ — reveals the ethical bankruptcy of the entire program.

The Inspector General’s report documents some practices — previously unknown or unconfirmed — that were used to bring about excruciating pain, terror, humiliation, and shame for months on end. These practices included:

  • Mock executions;
  • Brandishing guns and power drills;
  • Threats to sexually assault family members and murder children;
  • “Walling” — repeatedly slamming an unresponsive detainee’s head against a cell wall; and
  • Confinement in a box.

Co-author and PHR Senior Medical Advisor Vincent Iacopino, MD, PhD, said:

These unlawful, unethical, and ineffective interrogation tactics cause significant bodily and mental harm. The CIA Inspector General’s report confirms that torture escalates in severity and torturers frequently go beyond approved techniques.

Co-author Allen Keller, MD, Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, said:

That health professionals who swear to oaths of healing so abused the sacred trust society places in us by instigating, legitimizing and participating in torture, is an abomination. Health professionals who aided torture must be held accountable by professional associations, by state licensing boards, and by society.  Accountability is essential to maintain trust in our professions and to end torture, which scars bodies and minds, leaving survivors to endure debilitating injuries, humiliating memories and haunting nightmares.

PHR has called for full investigation and remedies, including accountability for war crimes, and reparation, such as compensation, medical care and psycho-social services. PHR also calls for health professionals who have violated ethical standards or the law to be held accountable through criminal prosecution, loss of license and loss of professional society membership where appropriate.