Military Medical Ethics – Scenario Database

Physicians' Involvement in Coercive Interrogations

ID/Number: 8
Last updated: 12 Aug, 2019
Revision: 2
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After a firefight somewhere in an armed conflict, the troops capture an injured combatant of the adversary party.

It is not clear whether the person is a prisoners of war, a common civilian, or a civilian actively participating in hostilities. Their military leaders are interested in the information that this person might hold.

As the wounded combatant awakes, a physician performs a medical check-up of the now detained person. Subsequently, the detainee is interrogated, possibly with the use of coercion or even torture.

Source: Fictitious

Questions for the discussion of this scenario

1. Should the physician perform a medical check-up knowing that the detainee will subsequently be coercively interrogated and/or tortured? Should a physician "clear" a detainee for interrogations?
2. What information can the physician pass on to the interrogators? Does a detained person have a right to confidentiality of medical information?
3. Should a physician be involved in interrogations, for example to monitor the health of the detainee during interrogation?
4. The detainee returns from the interrogation with bruises on his chest and face, and some broken ribs. What should the physician do? Should the physician report this? Should the physician prevent further interrogations?
5. The detainee passes away while in detention. The dead body shows signs of torture. What should the physician do?
6. Is it desirable that physicians contribute to the development of interrogation techniques?

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Interrogation Torture
Related scenarios and readings
item Punitive medical examination
item Complicity in interrogation

This scenario is also listed in the following categories
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Lack of knowledge and awareness in law, ethics, and intercultural differences -> Lack of knowledge in legal regulations
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Misuse of medical knowledge or resources -> Misuse of medicine for interrogation
folder Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Neutrality of the medical personnel