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News

Doctors will be asked to help identify people at risk of becoming terrorists

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d3627 (Published 08 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3627

Re: Doctors will be asked to help identify people at risk of becoming terrorists

I am concerned to see that training on identifying "signs that someone has been or is being drawn into terrorism" has now been incorporated into mandatory training for all health care workers (including doctors) in some areas.

My strong suspicion remains that the signs are either going to be so obvious that they can't easily be missed; or that they will be so subtle that we'd end up reporting many patients who are not and never would have become terrorists.

In medical terms, the sensitivity and specificity of any approach to screening our patients for terrorist potential (which is what this amounts to) is likely to be far too low to be acceptable; in which case the harms done by the screening are likely to far outweigh any benefit.

I think that unless compelling evidence for the value and efficacy of such approaches - meeting the national screening committee criteria - can be produced, the medical profession should declare this to be an unethical approach, and refuse to participate.

Links: http://www.shropscommunityhealth.nhs.uk/rte.asp?id=10909&fromTrainingPag...

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/articles/02/04/2012/118121/nhs-safeguardi...

http://www.ganfyd.org/index.php?title=Screening

Competing interests: No competing interests

15 May 2013
Peter English
Public Health Physician
Not relevant
Chessington