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Doctors in Prisons

Doctors in Prisons

Doctors in Prisons

on behalf of World Medical Association


Normal Price: FREE FREE


Launch date: 10 Dec 2020
Expiry Date:

Last updated: 06 Jul 2021

Reference: 196456

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Lucy Aitchison (7 Jun 2021)
Hi, the course is great! interesting and comprehensive. However there is a problem with the site. It doesn't allow for leaving the site and saving the work to date, with the result that every time I exit the site, I have to do all the exams over again when I return.
Thank you

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The web-based course on Human Rights and Ethics for Prison Doctors was originally developed in 2004 by the Norwegian Medical Association, in cooperation with the World Medical Association (WMA) and the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). Various associations and organisations have contributed to the course. The project was sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

International human rights law and medical ethics are dynamic, they adapt to evolving societies and the practice of medicine. Thus, existing courses need regular and comprehensive updates. In 2019-2020, the ICRC in partnership with the WMA undertook an update of this course, especially in relation with human rights, medical ethics, mental health, healthcare for women and accompanying children in detention and other vulnerable groups.

The prison doctor’s challenges:
Doctors and other health professionals working in prisons face problems that are different from those encountered by doctors working with the general population. Prison doctors must be able to provide adequate health care in the particular environment that exist in prisons. The doctor’s conduct must not be in conflict with international human rights and ethical standards.
In many countries little educational opportunities are provided to health professionals working in detention settings. It has direct repercussions on the quality of health care provided to detainees and the health outcomes of this population. Many doctors do not have access to international conventions and rules regulating health care services for prisoners. They encounter human rights violations, but do not know how to deal with them adequately. We believe this course will meet some of the needs many prison doctors have for more knowledge and skills in human rights and medical ethics.

The updated courses include 18 chapters and takes 18 hours 15 minutes to complete:
Chapter 1 - International statements on human rights and medical ethics
Chapter 2 - Informed consent and confidentiality in prisons
Chapter 3 - Prisoners and human rights: the doctor’s duty to respond to abuses
Chapter 4 - Dual loyalties and prison doctors
Chapter 5 - Hunger strikes
Chapter 6 - Healthcare for women and women accompanied by their children
Chapter 7 - Medical and ethical dilemmas: older prisoners
Chapter 8 - Introduction to mental disorder
Chapter 9 - Violence in places of detention: the role of the medical professional
Chapter 10 - Medical signs of ill- treatment
Chapter 11 - Research involving members of the prison population
Chapter 12 - Capital punishment
Chapter 13 - Body searches of prisoners
Chapter 14 - Ethical reflection in the treatment of sexual & gender minority being deprived of liberty
Chapter 15 - Healthcare for adolescents in places of detention
Chapter 16 - Drugs and addictions in prisons
Chapter 17 - Solitary confinement: ethical dilemmas
Chapter 18 - Humanitarian ethics: on complicity

Each chapter includes an overview, sub-sections detailing the issue and resources for further readings.


Editors of the 1st version:
Bjørn Oscar Hoftvedt, The Norwegian Medical Association
Hernan Reyes, International Committee of Red Cross

Editors of the updated version:
The International Committee of Red Cross
The World Medical Association

The course will be accessible to any one with internet connection. Anyone can look at the course as guest and health professionals wanted the course diploma will have to log in. Anyone can go at its own pace. The course is interactive using cases that the learner can reflect on. Each chapter is split in lessons. In order to test knowledge there are multiple choices questions at the end of each lessons. When the health professionals have finished all the chapters, completed all tests and the final evaluation, he/she can get the diploma by E mail.


The objectives of the course are:
- to present relevant international statements regulating the medical treatment of prisoners;
- to raise the prison health professionals’ awareness on their role in various areas of conflict of interests between the prisoner (the patient) and the prison administration and between a prisoner (a patient) and the public health in prison.

We believe this course is a significant educational resource for prison doctors. It offers detailed practical advice for any prison doctors seeking to improve their understanding of the human rights and ethical dimensions of their practice.

Author Information Play Video Bio

on behalf of World Medical Association

• Ann Sommerville,
British Medical Association

• James Welsh,
Amnesty International, London, UK

• Bjørn Hoftvedt, The Norwegian Medical Association

• Hernán Reyes, MD, International Committee of the Red Cross Additional comments by Laurent Gétaz, MD, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève,

• Ingrid Lycke Ellingsen, a specialist in psychiatry

• Dr. Jo Peden, Public Health Consultant

• PD Dr. Tenzin Wangmo and Prof. Dr. med. Bernice S.Elger
Institute for Biomedical EthicsUniversity of Basel, Basel, Switzerland


• James McManus,
Professor of Criminal Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University

• Sverre Varvin Ph.D., Professor, Oslo Metropolitan University

• Önder Ozkalipci MD, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

• Julian Sheather, British Medical Association. Emma Plugge outlined some practical aspects.

• Vivienne Nathanson MD,
Director of Professional Activities at the British Medical Association.

• Hernán Reyes, MD, medical coordinator International Committee of the Red Cross for Health in Detention

• Robert W. Dumond, LCMHC, CCMHC, Diplomate-Clinical Forensic Counseling, Consultant/Researcher and Faculty- Southern New Hampshire University, United States

• Doris A. Dumond, M.A., Consultant/Researcher

• Dagmar M. Haller, Fanny WAELTI, Patrick Heller

• Nat Wright, Linda Harris, and Eilish Gilvarry

• Sharon Shalev,
Dr. Shalev acts as an independent consultant on the use and consequences of solitary confinement and has authored various publications on the subject, including the Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement - a practitioner's guide to the health effects of solitary confinement and to human rights and professional standards relating to its use. Since its publication, the sourcebook has become a widely used point of reference internationally and has been translated into French, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish.

• Chiara Lepora,
Chiara Lepora, a physician and researcher, is an international visitor in residency at the Humanities Center for the spring quarter. She was trained as a medical practitioner at the Universities of Pavia and Lisbon and the London School of Hygiene and tropical medicine. She worked in emergency medicine in Italy and France before joining Médicins Sans Frontières(MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders) in 2002.

Current Accreditations

This course has been certified by or provided by the following Certified Organization/s:

  • The Norwegian Medical Association
  • 18.25 Hours -
    Exam Attempts: 3
    Exam Pass Rate: 50

Faculty and Disclosures

Additional Contributors

Conflicts Declared

Conflicts of Interest declaration by Author:


User Reviews (1)

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Lucy Aitchison (7 Jun 2021)
Hi, the course is great! interesting and comprehensive. However there is a problem with the site. It doesn't allow for leaving the site and saving the work to date, with the result that every time I exit the site, I have to do all the exams over again when I return. Thank you


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