Opinion on the use of medical methods to assess age in the asylum process

The Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics has published an opinion on ethical aspects regarding the use of medical methods to assess age in the asylum process.

The Council considers it ethically acceptable to use these methods under certain conditions, and only after the authorities has valued other evidence, such as documents and interviews with the asylum seeker and they still doubt the claimed age. Hence, the authorities should never resort to medical methods in order to assess age as a routine.

The Council states that

  • The use of medical methods can contribute with important information about the asylum seeker’s age, but only if these methods are the ”best” according to science, and if the margin of error is taken into account when making the final decision.
  • The asylum seeker should receive information about the method, the possible outcomes of its result and the consequences of not consenting to the medical age assessment.
  • The asylum seeker has to give his or her consent before going through with the examination.
  • The asylum seeker’s physical and psychological integrity shall be respected.
  • All uncertainties and the margin of error shall be declared in the medical material and the medical age assessment.
  • The final age assessment shall be based on all information regarding age that has occurred during the asylum process.
  • More research is needed regarding which medical methods are the best when it comes to age assessment. It is also important that the methods used are revised on a regular basis according to new findings.

The opinion is only available in Swedish but an extended summary in English will be published shortly.

The opinion in Swedish