n CME : Your SA Journal of CPD - Examination of detainees : main article

Volume 24, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-2170



Prisoners and detainees retain their common law and constitutional personal rights although their rights to liberty and privacy may be qualified. <BR>Unless in an emergency, doctors should refuse to treat prisoners or detainees where the detaining authorities prevent proper treatment, the detained persons are held under cruel, inhuman or degrading circumstances or they cannot examine their patients in private. <BR>Doctors must not remain passive if their patients have been exposed to 'third degree' interrogation methods or are suffering from illnesses or injuries resulting from assault. The doctor has a legal duty to safeguard the interests of the detainee (with his or her consent) by obtaining a court order to prevent further abuse or by informing the relatives of the imprisoned or detained person so that they may obtain such an order, having obtained consent from the detainee. <BR>Doctors who collaborate with the detaining authorities in the treatment of prisoners or detainees in situations that constitute torture under the Tokyo Declaration could be liable for a breach of their ethical duties and face possible legal action. <BR>The guiding principle concerning the treatment of prisoners and detainees by medical practitioners is that the welfare of the patient comes before the interests of the detaining authorities or anybody else. The detaining authorities may not circumscribe the ethical rules of the medical profession. Doctors are obliged to treat prisoners and detainees like any other patients. <BR>All doctors treating detainees in custody should err on the side of caution and refer them for hospital review if there is any doubt about their fitness.

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