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Relevance and limits of the principle of “equivalence of care” in prison medicine
  1. Gérard Niveau
  1. Department of Community Health and Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland
  1. Dr G Niveau, IUML, Avenue de Champel 9, 1211 Geneve 4, Switzerland; Gerard.Niveau{at}


The principle of “equivalence of care” in prison medicine is a principle by which prison health services are obliged to provide prisoners with care of a quality equivalent to that provided for the general public in the same country. It is cited in numerous national and international directives and recommendations.

The principle of equivalence is extremely relevant from the point of view of normative ethics but requires adaptation from the point of view of applied ethics. From a clinical point of view, the principle of equivalence is often insufficient to take account of the adaptations necessary for the organization of care in a correctional setting. The principle of equivalence is cost-effective in general, but has to be overstepped to ensure the humane management of certain special cases.

  • equivalence of care
  • prison medicine
  • ethics

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  • Competing interests: None declared.