Intended for healthcare professionals


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

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 08 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3627

Reporting potential terrorists is not a task we should readily agree to undertake

There may be the occasional patient who is clearly delusional and
dangerous. Such patients should be picked up by existing systems.

If we agree to the current demands, however, we may be agreeing to
report patients because of our vague suspicions.

The most likely outcomes of this will be a further loss of patients'
confidence in doctors and confidentiality, and more accusations of racism
against doctors who report patients they're concerned about. I doubt that
there will be any significantly improved detection of terrorists.

It is also likely that in the very rare instances in which people do
become terrorists, our agreeing to report suspicious behaviour - and then
having "failed" to report behaviour which was only suspicious in
retrospect - will be used as a stick with which to beat individual doctors
and the medical profession with.

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 June 2011
Peter E English
Public Health Consultant