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Ethics briefings
  1. Veronica English,
  2. Rebecca Mussell,
  3. Julian Sheather,
  4. Ann Sommerville
  1. BMA Ethics Department; ethics@bma.org.uk

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    English children’s services databases

    In December 2005, the Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes announced the implementation of the Information Sharing Index for children in England (Department for Education and Skills press release. Better services for children as government acts on Lord Laming recommendation, 8 December 2005). The index was set up in response to Lord Laming’s enquiry into the case of Victoria Climbié, a child who died following sustained abuse from her carers. The index will be a secure network, only accessible to authorised practitioners, from which they will be able to locate basic contact details of other practitioners involved in the care of a child. The aim of the index is to support appropriate information sharing between practitioners in order to protect and help children. The index should be fully operational by the end of 2008.

    Human rights: USA

    When amendments to two defence bills, put forward by Republican Senator John McCain became law in December 2005, the United States passed new legislation prohibiting the maltreatment of prisoners in American custody. These outlawed “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” by US personnel abroad. McCain, himself a former prisoner of war for over five years in Vietnam, where he suffered torture, acted in response to widely publicised instances of abuse in American run detention centres—Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The McCain amendment establishes in law the applicability of the guidelines on interrogation laid down in the US Army Field Manual. The manual is now the binding authority for all Department of Defence interrogations. The amendment bans “cruel and unusual” conduct in interrogations conducted by the American forces anywhere in the world. McCain’s one concession to the amendment’s critics was to allow that interrogators would have a defence against accusations of abuse where they reasonably believed their actions were carried out under legal orders. The …

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