Lords debate use of ‘unethical’ dental X-rays on undocumented migrants

Lords argue against use of dental x rays on asylum seekersThe House of Lords debated the use of dental X-rays to determine the age of migrants, arguing that the process is ‘unethical’.

The debate followed amendments put forward to the Nationality and Borders Bill, which look to control the use of dental age checks for undocumented migrants.

Proposed by the British Dental Association (BDA), it argues that dental X-rays are both inaccurate and unethical when it comes to determining age.

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Baroness Lister of Burtersett said: ‘Reading the briefings from various professional organisations, two clear messages recur.

‘That the use of so-called scientific methods to assess age in this context involves a wide margin of error, and it is unethical. And I repeat that: it is unethical.

‘The method mentioned most often in the Home Office communications is dental X-rays…the British Dental Association has been unequivocal in their condemnation of the use of dental age checks. [It] has vigorously opposed the use of dental X-rays to establish the age of young asylum seekers.’

‘Dentists aren’t border guards’

She added: ‘They consider this method highly inaccurate for assessing age. But crucially they point out how unethical it is to expose children to radiation when there is no medical benefit.

‘Dentists and doctors are health professionals, not border guards.’

She also slammed the government for not allowing adequate scrutiny of the measures. The section on age assessment, she argued, was included too late.

Minister Lord Stewart of Dirleton argued that he sees ‘no good reason’ why the technique should not be explored. However he said the Home Secretary would consider all relevant information and scientific advice before making a decision.

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