The Nurse's Role in the Care of Detainees and Prisoners (International Council of Nurses, 1975).

At the meeting of the Council of National Representatives of the International Council of Nurses in Singapore in August 1975, a statement on the role of the nurse in the care of detainees and prisoners was adopted. The text, last reviewed in 1991, is as follows:

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) Code for Nurses1 states that:

1. The fundamental responsibility of the nurse is fourfold: to promote health, to prevent illness, to restore health, and to alleviate suffering.

2. The nurse's primary responsibility is to those people who require nursing care.

3. The nurse, when acting in a professional capacity, should at all times maintain standards of personal conduct that reflect credit on the profession.

4. The nurse takes appropriate action to safeguard the individual when his or her care is endangered by a coworker or any other person.

ICN has reaffirmed its support of the Geneva Conventions of 19492, and the additional protocols, which state that, in case of armed conflict of international, as well as national character (i.e., internal disorders, civil wars, armed rebellions):

international Council of Nurses, Code for Nurses, Geneva, ICN, Adopted 1973, Reaffirmed in 1989.

international Committee of the Red Cross, Rights and Duties of Nurses under the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, Geneva, ICRC, 1970.

1. Members of the armed forces, prisoners and persons taking no active part in the hostilities a. shall be entitled to protection and care if wounded or sick, b. shall be treated humanely, that is:

• they may not be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest;

• they shall not be willfully left without medical assistance and care, nor shall conditions exposing them to contagion or infection be created;

• they shall be treated humanely and cared for by the party in conflict in whose power they may be, without adverse distinction founded on sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinion or any other similar criteria.

2. The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

a. violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture;

b. outrages on personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.

ICN has endorsed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights1 and, hence, accepted that:

a. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms, set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (Article 2), b. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5).

In relation to detainees and prisoners of conscience, interrogation procedures are increasingly being employed resulting in ill effects, often permanent, on the person's mental and physical health. ICN condemns the use of all such procedures harmful to the mental and physical health of prisoners and detainees.

Nurses having knowledge of physical or mental ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners must take appropriate action, including reporting the matter to appropriate national and/or international bodies.

1United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, Adopted 10 December 1948.

Nurses employed in prison health services do not assume functions of prison security personnel, such as body search for prison security reasons.

Nurses participate in clinical research carried out on prisoners only if the freely given consent of the patient has been secured after a complete explanation and understanding by the patient of the nature and risk of the research.

The nurse's first responsibility is to the patients, notwithstanding considerations of national security and interest.

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