European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Health care services in prisons
Extract from the 3rd General Report of the CPT,
published in 1993
Health care services for persons deprived of their liberty is a subject of direct relevance to
the CPT's mandate.1 An inadequate level of health care can lead rapidly to situations falling within
the scope of the term "inhuman and degrading treatment". Further, the health care service in a given
establishment can potentially play an important role in combatting the infliction of ill-treatment,
both in that establishment and elsewhere (in particular in police establishments). Moreover, it is
well placed to make a positive impact on the overall quality of life in the establishment within
which it operates.
In the following paragraphs, some of the main issues pursued by CPT delegations when
examining health care services within prisons are described. However, at the outset the CPT wishes
to make clear the importance which it attaches to the general principle - already recognised in most,
if not all, of the countries visited by the Committee to date - that prisoners are entitled to the same
level of medical care as persons living in the community at large. This principle is inherent in the
fundamental rights of the individual.
The considerations which have guided the CPT during its visits to prison health care
services can be set out under the following headings:
a. Access to a doctor
b. Equivalence of care
c. Patient's consent and confidentiality
d. Preventive health care
e. Humanitarian assistance
f. Professional independence
g. Professional competence.
Reference should also be made to Recommendation No. R (98) 7 concerning the ethical and organisational
aspects of health care in prison, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 8 April 1998.