Why Do New Professions and Multivocational Networks Need Ethics? A Case of the Non-Consensual Medical Sedation of an Asylum Seeking Family

Risto Honkonen, The Police College of Finland
Timo Korander, Police College of Finland

Professional ethical dilemmas are often complex and even more complex they are when work is carried out by a network comprised of representatives from different professions As an example we use a case from 2003 where a whole family of asylum seeking immigrants were sedated against their will in order to deport them from Finland. Two of the family members were children.

The rejection of the family's asylum application was in itself legal. However, The Council of Europe's Anti-Torture Committee criticised the non-consensual medical sedation as a means to that deportation. The Committee emphasised that the administration of medication to persons subject to a deportation order must always be carried out on the basis of a medical decision and the persons concerned must be physically seen and examined by a medical doctor, which was not so in this case.

The incident also created controversy in Finland. The leading authorities said that it was difficult to believe that this had happened. The newspaper with widest circulation, Helsingin Sanomat, regretted in its editorial that Finland, as a civilised country usually defending human rights, was now on the Anti-Torture Committee's list.

All the professionals involved justified their actions. The physician said that he believed that the Police, whose task it is to enforce law, could not ask for anything illegal. The nurse who gave the injections classically claimed to "only be doing what was ordered." Conversely the police officers said that they had placed their trust in the expertise of the medical professions, including the legality of their actions. The conclusions from this case will be summarised in twelve theses of ethical principles concerning new professions and multivocational networks.

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Updated 05/20/2006