Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Medical services policy in respect of detainees: evolution and outstanding issues
  1. Louis Lillywhite CB MBE
  1. Centre on Global Health Security, The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lt-Gen Louis Lillywhite,Centre on Global Health Security, The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London, UK; Llillywhite{at}


Alleged and confirmed abuse of civilians arrested or detained by the UK Armed Forces has been the subject of four formal enquiries, and all have used medical evidence and/or addressed medical issues. After the first three, robust policies were put in place to ensure that all those arrested had appropriate medical examinations and that healthcare personnel acted appropriately. However, by the time of the Second Gulf War, the training and medical processes had lapsed and were found to be a contributory factor in not preventing abuse. The fourth enquiry has endorsed most of the lapsed policies but is ambiguous in two areas—on medical certification of fitness for interrogation and the timing to the first medical examination. This article summarises the medical aspects of the four enquiries and discusses the two ambiguous areas, arguing that to diverge from the policies eventually put in place in Northern Ireland is a retrograde step. It also discusses how training put in place to avoid the very events which occurred in the Second Gulf was discontinued.

  • forensic medicine
  • health policy
  • medical ethics
  • occupational & industrial medicine
  • military medicine
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors LL is the sole author.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.