By Kelisiana Thynne and Sahar Haroon
This article builds upon a report compiled by the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law entitled, “Legal Opinion on the Obligation of Healthcare Professionals to Report Gunshot Wounds” covering 22 countries. The report drew three main conclusions: (1) that there is a universal obligation of doctor-patient confidentiality; (2) that most countries either incorporate a duty of healthcare professionals to report gunshot wounds or have more general reporting obligations that might include the reporting of gunshot wounds; and (3) that very few States have specific legislation protecting healthcare professionals and access to healthcare. Should mandatory gunshot wound reporting legislation require reporting prior to treatment it could impede access to healthcare for gunshot wound victims and lead to unnecessary suffering or death. This article shows that under IHL information sharing is indeed not prohibited and, in many cases, may be necessary. It argues therefore that while legislation affecting doctor-patient confidentiality is not consistent with medical ethics and arguably contrary to IHL in many cases it would be compatible with IHL to have appropriately nuanced reporting legislation that also protects confidentiality. Furthermore, this article draws some conclusions as to how legislation can operate to not impede access to healthcare. This article considers three States in the Asia Pacific region, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines and assesses how their laws on medical ethics and gunshot wound reporting have been or should be adapted to adequately reflect these IHL principles. Broadly speaking, States should revisit their reporting laws to ensure consistency with IHL, and while such contextualized legislation should be adopted by all States, it should ensure patient confidentiality and afford better clarity to healthcare professionals on when and how they are required to report.
Keywords: Asia-Pacific, international humanitarian law, gunshot wound reporting.