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Duties of the health professional

Health professionals have a duty to treat all patients without any form of discrimination and to provide treatment based only upon medical criteria without outside influence. In cases where torture or other ill-treatment is suspected, the health professional must keep in mind that these are crimes under international law, and probably domestic law. Therefore, irrespective of what the individual may be suspected, charged or convicted, the health professional’s duty is to document objectively any psychological or physical findings and, where pertinent, provide treatment or referral to colleagues for treatment. Thus those who become aware of torture have a duty to act, both to relieve the suffering and to document the evidence. To do nothing may be seen as acquiescence and as compounding the abuse. On the other hand, when choosing a course of action, consideration also needs to be given to the torture victim’s situation and how the risk of reprisals can be avoided or minimised.