Dr. Steven Miles headlines Wallenburg Memorial Lecture

“Oath Betrayed” will focus on the complicity of medical staff at Abu Ghraib. Submitted.
“Oath Betrayed” will focus on the complicity of medical staff at Abu Ghraib. Submitted.

As is tradition, every fall the peace studies program hosts the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Lecture. This year the lecture is being held Monday, Nov. 2, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. in Wallenberg Auditorium. Dr. Steven H. Miles of the University of Minnesota will speak regarding the title of this year’s lecture: “Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors.”

The focus of Dr. Miles’ lecture is the role of doctors in the physical, sexual and psychological abuse that occurred at the Abu Grhaib prison in Iraq. According to Professor Mimi Gerstbauer, head of the peace studies program, the lecture traditionally covers topics relating to genocide with speakers such as Lucille Eichengreen, a Holocaust survivor, and Mark Hanis from the Genocide Prevention Network.

“Dr. Miles was suggested by a former trustee of the College as a possible MAYDAY! Conference speaker. Once I found out more information about him, I thought he would be a good fit for the Wallenberg Lecture,” Gerstbauer said. “He was a good fit because the Wallenberg Lecture focuses on genocide and war crimes, and the role of doctors in torture or the permission of torture is something that has come up many times in history, so it needs to be discussed.”

The Wallenberg Memorial Lecture is in honor of Raoul Wallenberg, from the family that the Wallenberg Auditorium is named after. Wallenberg was a Swedish businessman. “He used his money and power during World War II to help rescue Hungarian Jews from persecution, and as a result saved many lives. Finally, the Soviets captured Wallenberg and he has since disappeared from their records,” Sean Easton, professor of classics and this semester’s instructor for the  introduction to peace studies class, said. The annual lecture is named after Wallenberg in honor of the efforts he made to prevent violence and bring peace into the lives of others.

In addition to his interest in the complicity of nurses and physicians during the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Dr. Miles will speak about the sanctions against physicians for torture in countries all over the world, ranging from Greece to Uruguay.

Dr. Miles is a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School and affiliate faculty for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Miles also has experience working as medical director for the American Refugee Committee for 25 years, as well as bringing awareness to the use of restraints in nursing homes and the rights of geriatric care patients.

He has published over 200 articles and four books on his many areas of expertise, and because of his abundance of knowledge in addition to the role of doctors in torture, the peace studies program has arranged for Miles to host an informal career session in the Dive prior to the lecture. This will be from 4:30 to 5:20 pm on Monday, Nov. 2, 2009.

All students and community members are welcome to attend the free Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Lecture to learn more about Miles’ expertise. “It will be interesting to hear about doctors’ role in torture. I’m sure we’ll discuss in class about what the physicians at Abu Ghraib and other prisons could have done differently in order to promote peace,” Sophomore Biology major Megan Lundin said. “I think that the topic of the lecture is one that will provoke conversation. I could see it being a topic at the dinner table one night.”