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Human rights

Dadaab Refugee Camp in Somalia

Human rights and medical practice are rooted in fundamental principles including respect, dignity, fairness and equality.

The BMA has always advocated the highest standards of human rights in healthcare, both for clinicians and patients.

BMA procedures for human rights interventions, drawn up with advice from Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, explains the BMA's criteria for intervening in alleged abuses of human rights.

Read our procedures for human rights interventions

Most recently, we have spoken out against:


Get involved

All doctors can support the protection of human rights in healthcare and here are a few useful ideas:

See how clinicians can support human rights with Amnesty International

Contact your local MP about specific cases

Visit the World Medical Association if you work in prisons

Contact us for more information


BMA action on human rights

Find out more about the instances in which the BMA has been speaking up for human rights:

  • Harassment of medical professionals in Turkey

    In January 2018, following the Turkish military incursion into Syria, the TTB (Turkish Medical Association) issued a short statement to raise concerns about the impact of this military action on public health. The TTB is an internationally respected medical association and an affiliate member of the World Medical Association, and we believe it is entirely appropriate for a medical association to speak out about concerns regarding the health consequences of armed conflict.

    Immediately afterwards, the President of Turkey denounced the TTB, calling them ‘terrorist lovers’. Eleven of its senior doctors, including the Association’s chairman, were later arrested. We wrote at the time to President Erdoğan to condemn the arrest in the strongest possible terms (the letter is provided below). Following international condemnation, these doctors were released.

    This harassment is part of a wider crackdown on civil society and political opposition in Turkey – most recently, we have learnt the President is seeking to pass laws that would undermine the rights of professionals to form associations and to represent their colleagues. We believe it is vital that the international community demands that Turkey ensures, in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the international human rights standards and instruments that it has itself ratified.

    The chairs of the BMA’s medical ethics and international committees have written to the Foreign Secretary (the letter is provided below), urging the UK Government to raise this issue on the international stage, as a matter of urgency, in order to collaborate with our international partners to end all such acts of harassment and intimation in Turkey.

    Download the letter to the President of Turkey

    Download the letter to the Foreign Secretary


  • Call to abolish forced sterilisation in Finland Trans Act

    Amnesty International have picked up the case of Sakris Kupila, a 21-year-old medical student fighting for the reform of gender recognition laws in Finland which currently require trans people to undergo forced sterilisation in the Finland Trans Act.

    Finland and the UK, as well as several other nations, are bound to ensure that our laws and regulations do not compel trans people to undergo forced sterilisation or other forced medical treatment.

    The BMA is also opposed to medical involvement where there is no clinical justification and in circumstances that violate professional and human rights norms.

    In support of the case, the BMA have written to the Finnish Prime Minister calling to revise the provisions of the Finland Trans Act and opening dialogue with the Finnish Government on trans people’s health and rights.

    Read our letter


  • Doctors as victims

    Egypt: Canadian doctor begins hunger strike in custody

    Sudan: Death penalty for pregnant doctor

    Syria: Doctors detained in custody

    United States: Medical involvement in force-feeding at Guantánamo

    Vietnam: Health Ministry sources drugs for lethal injections

    Read more


  • Human rights act

    The BMA has written to the Prime Minister ahead of Human Rights Day calling on the government to abandon their plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

    We believe that the rights enshrined in the Human Rights Act are fundamental to the primary role of doctors in advocating and caring for patients.

    Read Mark Porter's response


  • Medical impartiality

    Afghanistan: Coalition bombing of MSF hospital

    Bahrain: Breaches of medical neutrality

    Gaza: Shelling of medical facilities

    Turkey: Breaches of medical neutrality

    Read more


  • Patients as victims

    France: Refugees denied basic aid supplies

    Uganda: Anti-homosexuality law

    Read more