A Birmingham doctor is making a rallying cry to his American colleagues over deaths in custody of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay.

Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at City Hospital, in Winson Green, is one of six doctors who have signed a "call to action" published in The Lancet medical journal today.

He, along with the five other signatories, claim doctors in the US military adopt a "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" culture over prisoners' deaths.

"Doctors are thought of as healers who are there to help people when they are sick or injured, but in places like Guantanamo that primary role seems to have been forgotten," said Dr Nicholl.

The six doctors who have signed the letter believe these echo the controversial circumstances surrounding the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko in South Africa.

"Biko was said to have died through hunger strike but in fact he was tortured to death. He had a brain haemorrhage which was left untreated, but his death was covered up by the doctors who were treating him.

"It was only eight years after his death that the medics responsible were struck off."

Nearly 30 years after his death, following a violent police interrogation, 260 doctors around the world have voiced their fears that no lessons have been learnt.

The letter, signed on behalf of this group, cites their concerns that no medics have been held accountable for inmates deaths at the prison camp.

It states: "No healthcare worker has been charged or convicted of any significant offence despite numerous instances documented including fraudulent record keeping on detainees who have died as a result of failed interrogations.

"We suspect that the doctors in Guantanamo and elsewhere have made the same mistake as Benjamin Tucker, who, in 1991, in expressing remorse and seeking reinstatement, said: 'I had gradually lost the fearless independence... and become too closely identified with the organs of the State, especially the police force... I have come to realise that a medical practitioner's first responsibility is the wellbeing of his patient, and that a medical practitioner cannot subordinate his patient's interest to extraneous considerations'.

"The attitude of the US medical establishment appears to be one of 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil'."

Dr Nicholl wrote to Medical Board bosses in California and Georgia 18 months ago, raising his concerns over medical ethics and practices at Guantanamo Bay but got no response.

He said: "When I realised the anniversary of Steve Biko's death was approaching I wrote to them again, pointing out it had been 18 months since I first wrote and they had not replied. California contact me to say they will only investigate if instructed by the Government, so even their doctors are force-feeding detainees on hunger-strike at Guantanamo.

"Meanwhile the response from Georgia was they had conducted an investigation, which apparently found no violations of the Medical Practice Act.

"But here the Royal College of Physicians have stated that 'In England this (force-feeding) would be a criminal act.'"

Dr Nicholl added: "These people are charged with trying to save people's lives, but this completely goes against that ethos. Much more needs to be done to sort this out, the detainees at Guantanamo must have access to independent doctors.

"So I hope my colleagues in America, when they see the letter in The Lancet, will be shocked enough to take up the cause. It's a call to action because really there is only so much one doctor in Birmingham can do."