Confidentiality & consent in police custody: General principles

J Forensic Leg Med. 2018 Jul;57:66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2016.09.008. Epub 2016 Sep 28.


The care of detainees (prisoners) in police custody has had much focus in recent years. The nature of the role of the doctor or other healthcare professionals within the police custodial setting may often be subject to conflicts, but their respective duties as healthcare professionals should generally overide any police or forensic issue that may be relevant. The laws or rules or statute that govern doctor, nurse or paramedic practice may vary from country to country, but the broad principles of healthcare ethics are universal and have been formulated not only by national healthcare regulatory bodies but by international organizations such as the World Medical Association. This article discusses in particular the duties of consent and confidentiality within the police custodial setting, giving examples of where conflicts may arise, and how they should be dealt with.

Keywords: Confidentiality; Consent; Forensic physicians; Healthcare professionals; Mental capacity; Police custody.

MeSH terms

  • Codes of Ethics
  • Confidentiality* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Disclosure / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Duty to Warn / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mandatory Reporting
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Physical Examination
  • Police*
  • Prisoners*