BMA guidance

Ethics toolkit for armed forces doctors

How to best fulfill your ethical obligations when making difficult decisions while working as a doctor in the armed forces.

Location: UK International
Audience: Armed forces doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 September 2020
Topics: Ethics
Justice scales article illustration

The extremity of the circumstances in which military doctors operate can make it difficult at times to understand how best to fulfill their obligations to patients. This guide will provide you with the key ethical factors to consider in such circumstances.


What you'll get from this guide

  • Ethical duties in relation to consent and capacity, confidentiality, and competence.
  • Ethical duties in relation to treating detainees.
  • Identifying and reporting unethical practice and abuse.


How to use this guide

This toolkit is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to ethical questions arising for military doctors. 

We have also included more detailed guidance, including from the Ministry of Defence, and further sources of information and support.

When facing specific ethical dilemmas, doctors are strongly recommended to refer to this more comprehensive guidance, or to seek further advice from the BMA, GMC or their personal medical legal defence organisation.

  • Guiding principles
  • Managing dual loyalties
  • Consent and capacity
  • Confidentiality
  • Competence
  • Treating detainees
  • Identifying and reporting unethical practice and abuse
  • Further resources