Shackling prisoners in hospital

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7025.200 (Published 27 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:200
  1. Luisa Dillner
  1. Assistant editor BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    Contravenes international law

    The shackling of women in labour in British hospitals has aroused almost universal condemnation. Last week the home secretary clarified the use of restraints on all prisoners attending hospitals. Pregnant women will no longer wear restraints within hospitals, although those considered to be high security risks will still wear them for antenatal visits and at least one of the accompanying prison staff will be a woman. But for other prisoners attending hospitals restraints will continue to be applied “unless there is a medical objection.”1

    Maternity service organisations have already condemned the home secretary's response, and have extended their objections to the shackling of all woman prisoners, arguing that the practice is illegal under national and international law. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights says that no one should be subjected to degrading punishment, and the United Nations standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners state that chains shall not be used as restraints.2 3 Although shackling may seem more abhorrent in women than it does in men, in both sexes it …

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