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Physicians attending detainees in police custody: an improved format of the doctor's opinion

Physicians attending detainees in police custody: an improved format of the doctor's opinion

Presse Medicale 42(1): E9

Physicians attending detainees in police custody should decide whether the detainee's health status is compatible with detention in a police station. According to a recent French law on police custody (April 14, 2011), the physician is expected to make any useful observations. Standard documents have been proposed since 2004. They have not been extensively used so far. Our objective was to analyze the content and the limitations of such documents and to elaborate a new model. We analyzed available models, studied how they fit to national guidelines, and proposed a new model which was more in accordance with the existing guidelines. Recommended format of the doctor's opinion consists in two parts: a standard medical certificate to be sent to the authority who requested the doctor's attendance and a confidential medical record, which is not sent to the requesting authority. Some guidelines were not followed, e.g. detection of psychiatric illnesses and addictive behaviours, and a systematic record of traumatic injuries. The new model has been tested for 18 months by a group of 25 forensic physicians. It includes the description of traumatic injuries and suggests that the doctor systematically assesses a duration of total incapacity to work, even if an extensive description is not requested by the authority. The confidential medical record mentions psychiatric history and addictive behaviours. The proposed model could help detainees to assert their rights. It could also take part in characterizing health hazards to which detainees can be exposed.

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Accession: 054998401

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PMID: 22771025

DOI: 10.1016/j.lpm.2012.04.027

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