A Human Rights Watch report has revealed details of healthcare providers withholding care or engaging in treatment that intentionally inflicts pain on patients for no medical reason.
World Report 2010 details major human rights violations in more than 90 nations worldwide.
An essay "Abusing Patients: Health Providers' Complicity in Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment," details investigative work carried out by the organisation (HRW) last year.
Health and human rights director at HRW Joseph Amon opens the essay by reflecting on an incident in 2002 where the organisation documented a network of facilities in China where dissidents were detained alongside the mentally ill.
Tan Guihua was one of the "patients" detained in 1999. Guihua was sent to Jiaozhou Mental Hospital in Shandong province for supporting and practising Falungong, a form of spiritual meditation.
She refused to renounce her beliefs and was repeatedly tortured by medical personnel using electroshock therapy. Guihua was also force-fed antipsychotic medicines.
According to Amon such acts perpetuated by healthcare providers were not confined to political prisoners.
He pointed out that ethical guidelines and international human rights laws openly condemn healthcare providers' involvement in torture or ill-treatment.
"Yet providers engage in a wide range of abuses in the name of 'medical treatment', often because they are following abusive government policies," Amon said.
The essay documents a variety of examples where healthcare workers have complied with torture, cruel or inhumane activities in many countries throughout the world. These include:
Egypt, where government healthcare workers conducted forced anal examinations on men suspected of being involved in sexual activities with other men.
Healthcare providers in Libya and Jordan conducting virginity exams of patients without their consent. In both countries these were done in 'social rehabilitation centres' to establish the virginity status of the women for prosecution purposes or to inform the family's decision on whether to abandon, institutionalise or cause harm to the woman.
In Iraq, Kurdistan midwives conducting female genital mutilation and physicians supporting and promoting the act and denying any form of negative health effects caused by the procedure.
Physicians in China physically and sometimes sexually abusing drug users detained in treatment centres. Patients being made to work long hours without pay.
No evidence-based medical methods of treating drug dependency were being used in most of the drug treatment centres.
Denying of abortions to women in Nicaragua in circumstances where one should be performed to save the mother, resulting in avoidable deaths.
Healthcare workers in India withholding pain medicine to chronically ill patients. - Health-e News