Prison medicine

SAMS » Ethics » Topics A–Z » Prison medicine

The involvement of physicians in police measures is a delicate matter in which ethical boundaries may easily be crossed. The SAMS has prepared guidelines and opinions to provide practical guidance.

Physicians may be asked to participate in the execution of sentences and measures, e.g. to provide medical treatment for persons who are in police custody or are incarcerated. The SAMS guidelines on «Medical practice in respect of detained persons» describe typical situations in which physicians may be subject to conflicting loyalties, for instance in providing an expert opinion, treating hunger strikers, or assessing whether persons in pre-deportation detention are fit for transport.


Medical practice in respect of detained persons

Medical-ethical guidelines with information on practical application (published in 2002, updated in 2012, Appendix let. G amended in 2015, Appendix let. H added in 2018)


Appendix H: Medical management of suspected persons with body packs (2018)
This appendix is an integral part of the SAMS medical-ethical guidelines «Medical practice in respect of detained persons», see above.


Coercive measures in medicine (2015)

Section 4.6 of these guidelines discusses the principles applicable for coercive measures in detainees.


Research with human subjects: A manual for practitioners (2015)

This manual includes guidelines for research involving prisoners (Section 5.4).





lic. theol., dipl. biol. Sibylle Ackermann
Head Department Ethics
Tel. +41 31 306 92 73