NHS Treatment and Failed Asylum-Seekers

A medical student from Newcastle writes:

I am currently writing an ethics assignment relating to a paediatric placement I undertook earlier this academic year.  During the placement I was involved in the care of 11-month old twins from Khartoum, Sudan, whose parents had brought them into hospital because they were suffering from recurrent generalised tonic-clonic (grand mal) siezures.  As part of their treatment, they were administered with intravenous antiepileptic medications, as well as maintenance fluids.  The day after their admission, however, the family were informed that their application for leave to remain in the UK had failed, and that they were to return to the Sudan with immediate effect.

I would like to use this scenario to highlight the ethical, legal and professional issues raised by the medical treatment of failed asylum seekers on the NHS.  The reason I am contacting you is to ask whether, as an expert in medical ethics, you are aware of any textbooks or published documents which may offer some guidance on this issue?  Given the highly specific nature of the subject, I know the best I can hope for is a chapter in an ethics textbook, but the hospital and University libraries I have visited have not yielded any results; furthermore, I am afraid the internet simply does not seem to contain many credible sources of information.

This looks like a really interesting – and important – study; but I have to admit that the best I could do was to recommend a trawl of the journals.

Does anyone out there have any more specific suggestions?  It’d be much appreciated if you’d leave them in the comments.

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