Murderer’s admission to medical school sparks debate

The controversy surrounding a convicted murderer turned medical student continues as Sweden struggles to balance the right to education with protecting patients’, and society’s, best interests.

In 2007 the man was admitted to the Karolinska Institute, just seven years after being convicted of a hate murder. Sweden’s top medical school claims that it accepted the man into its medicine course while being unaware of his past crimes.

After the medical profession expressed its sharp criticism of the student’s acceptance into the medial course, a strong debate is now raging about whether murderers are entitled to study, or practice, medicine.

On behalf of the government, the Swedish Medical Society (Svenska Läkaresällskapet) has been investigating whether a person with a criminal background can be denied the right to become a medical practitioner. In a letter in November, addressed to Tobias Krantz, Minister for Higher Education and Research, the Swedish Medical Society outlined its stance on the issue.

The society said that although the individual’s legal rights must be taken into consideration, the patient’s confidence in the Swedish health system (and in the doctors and medical students they meet), and protecting the patient’s security, are of paramount importance. It also commented that medical practitioners must earn the confidence and respect of society during their study and entire working life.

The medical authority observed that some issues, such as a serious mental disorder, severe abuse or serious crime, could undermine public confidence in medical practitioners.

Chairman of the society, Peter Aspelin, and Niels Lynöe, head of the committee for medical ethics, said: “In conclusion, the question of whether or not to accept or reject a student due to certain circumstances like a serious crime which makes him/her unsuitable for the profession, is a very serious issue for us, and is being assessed on an ethical basis as well as looking at it from a patient’s perspective.”

The issue has now been passed to the Ministry for Higher Education and Research for further consideration.

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