Miles, Steven H.

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Miles, Steven H.


Education: Saint Olaf College, B.A., 1972; University of Minnesota Medical School, M.D., 1976; postgraduate studies at United Theological Seminary, 1977.


Office—University of Minnesota Medical School, N504 Boynton, 410 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455. E-mail—[email protected]


American Refugee Committee, Thailand and Cambodia, medical program director, 1981-82; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, managing internist, assistant professor, 1982-86; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, former staff member; Pritzker School of Medicine, former staff member; Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, assistant professor, 1986-89; Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, staff member, 1990-95; University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, 1990—, became professor of medicine at the Center for Bioethics. Served as a consultant and on various editorial boards, boards of directors, task forces, and advisory committees.


Pi Alpha Alpha.


Outstanding Achievement award, Minnesota Gerontological Society, 1993; Distinguished Service award, American Society for Bioethics and the Humanities, 2000; Minnesotan of the Year, Minnesota Monthly, 2004; Paul and Sheila Wellstone award, Minnesota chapter of the American Association of Public Health, 2005; Excellence in Medical Education award, University of Minnesota, 2005; Pellegrino Medal of the Healthcare Ethics and Law Institute of Samford University, 2006; named an honorary member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration, 2006; George Orwell Award, National Council of Teachers of English, 2006.


(With Carlos Gomez) Protocols for Elective Use of Life-Sustaining Treatments: A Design Guide, foreword by Christine K. Cassel, Springer Publishing (New York, NY), 1989.

The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to books, including The Power of Pills: Social, Ethical and Legal Issues in Drug Development, Marketing and Pricing Policies, edited by J.C. Cohen, P. Illingworth, and U. Schlenck, Pluto Press (London, England), 2006; and One of the Guys, edited by T. McKelvey, Seal Press, 2007. Contributor to medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Infectious Diseases, Journal of Adolescent Health Care, Annals of Internal Medicine, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Journal of Clinical Ethics, Social Science & Medicine, and American Journal of Bioethics.


Steven H. Miles is a medical doctor who is board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics. His areas of expertise include the care of nursing-home residents and patients nearing the ends of their lives, as well as the medical care of prisoners and refugees. In the early 1980s, he served as medical director for the American Refugee Committee, which included his oversight of forty-three thousand refugees on the Thailand-Cambodian border and the coordination of relief services for displaced persons of Thailand in twenty-three refugee camps.

Miles is known for his study of, and writings on, medical ethics. His books include The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine, an examination of what the Hippocratic Oath meant to Greek physicians more than two thousand years ago, and studies its relevance to modern medical ethics. Miles draws from the writings of ancient physicians and playwrights, as well as modern scholars, in coming to his conclusions. He notes that Greek writings reflect the understanding of physicians of the time regarding their responsibility to avoid making medical mistakes. They also instruct physicians as to how they should tell patients about their illnesses in such a way as to enhance the credibility of their profession and maintain partnerships with patients that will result in the best of outcomes. Each chapter focuses on an individual piece of writing and its relationship to a modern case discussion.

In writing Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, Miles collected documents, news accounts, and reports about the warfare in Afghanistan and Iran and concludes that "armed forces physicians, nurses and medics had been passive and active partners in the systemic neglect and abuse of prisoners" in those countries and at Guantanamo, the United States base in Cuba. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Adam Liptak stated: "In 2002 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described those held at Guantánamo as ‘among the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth.’ But a recent study prepared at the Seton Hall University School of Law shows that just 8 percent of the detainees were even said by the government to be Qaeda fighters." In reviewing the book in Time, Andrew Sullivan noted that in an order that breached the rules of the Geneva Convention, Rumsfeld ordered doctors to be involved in monitoring torture. Sullivan described Oath Betrayed as "a harrowing documentation of how the military medical profession has been corrupted by the Bush-Rumsfeld interrogation rules. One of those rules was that a prisoner's medical information could be provided to interrogators to help guide them to the prisoner's ‘emotional and physical strengths and weaknesses’ (in Rumsfeld's own words) in the torture process."

Miles writes that medical personnel essentially approved of torture and often did not examine the prisoners afterward. The U.S. Army's surgeon general stated that at Abu Ghraib, only fifteen percent of prisoners were examined after interrogation. Methods of interrogation expressly forbidden by the Geneva Convention were employed. Prisoners were sleep deprived and threatened with dogs. Needed medicines were withheld, and medical staff fed Muslim prisoners pork, which is forbidden by their religion. Miles writes that medical death certificates were often issued long after the deaths occurred, sometimes years later. Causes of death were manufactured to hide the fact that prisoners actually died because of mistreatment. Reviewing the book in Commonweal, Daniel P. Sulmasy wrote: "The book is far more than an indictment of physicians. First and foremost, Miles accuses the whole of the American people. The United States is now a ‘torturing society,’ Miles claims, which has aided other torturing societies and now tortures and kills prisoners systematically in the ‘war on terror.’ In light of this premise Oath Betrayed involves physicians secondarily because, as Miles puts it, ‘a torturing society must secure the passive assent or active complicity of its professions.’"



Choice, October, 2004, R.G. McGee, review of The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine, p. 326.

Commonweal, November 17, 2006, Daniel P. Sulmasy, review of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, p. 18.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, September 1, 2004, John M. Clark, review of The Hippocratic Oath, p. 1083.

New England Journal of Medicine, May 13, 2004, Albert R. Jonsen, review of The Hippocratic Oath and the Ethics of Medicine, p. 2111; October 12, 2006, Michael A. Grodin and George J. Annas, review of Oath Betrayed, p. 1624.

New York Times Book Review, July 13, 2006, Adam Liptak, review of Oath Betrayed.

Time, June 23, 2006, Andrew Sullivan, review of Oath Betrayed.

Washington Post Book World, July 23, 2006, Peter D. Cramer, review of Oath Betrayed, p. 4.

ONLINE, (July 8, 2006), review of Oath Betrayed.

University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Bioethics Web site, (February 7, 2008), profile of Steven H. Miles.

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