"Forced Dialysis for a Detainee"

Medical treatment for non-medical purposes?


The scenario Document

  • Special forces capture a combatant in the mountains who they believe has vital information that could lead to the arrest of a major terrorist suspect. He is taken to a military hospital at an undisclosed location. Doctors at the hospital soon discover that he is suffering from kidney failure and prepare him for dialysis. However, the combatant refuses, stating that he would rather die than live as a prisoner.
  • Uncertain about how to proceed, the military doctor asks her commanding officer for guidance. The question of whether to override the detainee's refusal of treatment was quickly passed up the military hierarchy. Two days later, the Secretary of Defense issued an order to begin dialysis despite the prisoner's refusal. The order cites the urgent national security interest in keeping the prisoner alive for a thorough interrogation that would lead to the arrest of a key terrorist suspect.

Source: Adapted from: Zupan, Daniel, et al. (2004), 'Dialysis for a prisoner of war', The Hastings Center Report, 34 (6), 11. Link

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