Psychologists abandon the Nuremberg ethic: concerns for detainee interrogations

Int J Law Psychiatry. May-Jun 2009;32(3):161-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2009.02.005. Epub 2009 Mar 18.


In the aftermath of 9-11, the American Psychological Association, one of the largest U.S. health professions, changed its ethics code so that it now runs counter to the Nuremberg Ethic. This historic post-9-11 change allows psychologists to set aside their ethical responsibilities whenever they are in irreconcilable conflict with military orders, governmental regulations, national and local laws, and other forms of governing legal authority. This article discusses the history, wording, rationale, and implications of the ethical standard that U.S. psychologists adopted 7 years ago, particularly in light of concerns over health care professionals' involvement in detainee interrogations and the controversy over psychologists' prominent involvement in settings like the Guantánamo Bay Detainment Camp and the Abu Ghraib prison. It discusses possible approaches to the complex dilemmas arising when ethical responsibilities conflict with laws, regulations, or other governing legal authority.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Ethics, Professional*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Prisoners / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Psychology / ethics*