Ethical issues in medico-legal exposures.

Research paper by Geraldine G O'Reilly, J F JF Malone

Indexed on: 22 Apr '08Published on: 22 Apr '08Published in: Radiation protection dosimetry


The Medical Exposure Directive (MED) 97/43/Euratom defines medico-legal procedures as 'procedures performed for insurance or legal purposes without a medical indication'. The term 'medico-legal exposures' covers a wide range of possible types of exposures, very different in nature, for which the only feature in common is the fact that the main reason for performing them does not relate directly to the health of the individual being exposed to ionising radiation. The key issue in medico-legal exposures is justification. Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of such exposures is complex because not only can these be difficult to quantify and hence compare, but often the advantage may be to society whereas the disadvantage is usually to an individual. This adds an additional layer of ethical complexity to the problem and one, which requires input from a number of sources beyond the established radiation protection community. Because medico-legal exposures are considered to be medical exposures, they are not subject to dose limits. In medico-legal exposures where the benefit is not necessarily to the individual undergoing the exposure, the question must be asked as to whether or not this is an appropriate framework within which to conduct such exposures. This paper looks at the current situation in Europe, highlighting some of the particular problems that have arisen, and tries to identify the areas, which require further clarification and guidance.