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Ethics briefings
  1. Martin Davies,
  2. Sophie Brannan,
  3. Eleanor Chrispin,
  4. Samuel Mason,
  5. Rebecca Mussell,
  6. Julian Sheather,
  7. Ann Sommerville
  1. British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Mr Martin Davies, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP, UK; mdavies{at}

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Surgical mutilation as punishment in Saudi-Arabia

In August, Amnesty International and the World Medical Association (WMA) expressed concern at reports that a judge in Saudi Arabia had asked several hospitals in the country whether they could perform an operation to damage a man's spinal cord as punishment for attacking another man and leaving him paralysed. The man had already been sentenced to seven months imprisonment for the crime, the injured victim requested the further sentence under Sharia Law, which is strictly enforced across Saudi Arabia. According to reports, one of the hospitals approached declined on ethical grounds. Another hospital stated that it was possible to damage the spinal cord in the way requested, but that the procedure would have to be done at a specialised hospital.1

In its statement, Amnesty International urged the authorities not to carry out the sentence, which it argued would be a grave violation of international human rights law and contravene the United Nations convention against Torture, to which Saudi Arabia is a state party.2 The WMA expressed its support for the physicians who refused to carry out the request by the Saudi court, participation in which would constitute a severe breach of medical ethics.3 The WMA reminded doctors that the Declaration of Tokyo clearly states that no physician should participate in the practice of torture or any other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, whatever the offence of which the victim of such procedures is suspected, accused or guilty of. The Declaration also includes a prohibition of participation in the planning or advising for such a procedure.

NHS white paper

In July 2010 the government published a White Paper outlining its plans to transform the delivery of National Health Services in England.4 The White Paper has been described as ‘one of the biggest shake ups of the health system …

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  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

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