Australia provides medical treatment to alien detainees without their assent

March 03, 2014
Australia provides medical treatment to alien detainees without their assent

The Immigration department of Australia has been providing medical treatment to detainees in the detention center without their assent. Since 2005, this has been done 10 times, which includes force feeding a person who was on a hunger strike.

In 1994, a ‘controversial regulation’ was introduced according to which exceptional powers were granted to the Secretary of Immigration Department. These powers allow the department to provide medical treatment to the detainees, even though they express their unwillingness to undertake the treatment. This is in case the department believes that the detainee’s health is at a great risk of danger as per the advice of the medical practitioner.

A detainee had gone on a hunger strike at the detention center in November 2011.A medical doctor wrote that the detainee needed ‘IV fluid, feeding and a proper dietician’s advice’.

Then, secretary of the Immigration department, Andrew Metcalfe had giving in writing his approval of the treatment which stated that if the detainee is not medically treated on time, then there could have been a great risk to the detainee’s health or life. He also stated that the detainee had refused to give, failed to give, or had been not capable of lending the consent to the medical treatment.

Protests in the form of hunger strikes regularly happen at the detention centers around Australia and on Manus and Nauru Island. In the previous week, asylum seekers of Christmas Island began a hunger strike to protest the death of an asylum seeker on the Island of Manus, about 2 weeks ago.

The director of the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University, Mary Anne Kenny, has said that the stated regulation had gone beyond the treatment that could be offered to the person not held in the detention center.

She said if any individual of the community has to be offered medical treatment, his/her approval is needed without which it is considered as an offence, until and unless the individual is incapable of a decision or is mentally challenged.

Mary Anne Kenny remarked that the existing problem with the current ‘controversial regulation’ is that an individual of/at the detention center can be treated medically regardless of his/her consent.

According to her, the detainees should not be treated any differently than anyone else in the community. She stated that to be held in detention does not mean that the protection should not be there for the detainees.

A spokeswoman for the minister’s office has said and clarified that providing medical treatment to detainees without their consent may only be done in the situations where there will be a greater risk to the detainee.She also said that medical treatment only includes the administration of fluids and the nourishment that needs to be taken up in a hospital.

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