Dental X-rays halted for child asylum seekers

The UK Border Agency has been forced to suspend a dental X-ray pilot scheme to determine the age of child asylum seekers and has sought advice on the legalities of the scheme.
The Home Office announced its plans just 24 hours before it was due to begin at the end of March and has since been heavily criticised by health professionals.

Now an MP has demanded the pilot be dropped saying it  was 'unethical, an uncertain science and crude' and was systemic of how particular groups are treated.
Government wants to see if the x-rays would be a useful tool in establishing the ages of asylum seekers, who are treated differently if they are under 18. The move comes three years after the previous Labour government dropped plans to introduce such checks.
Questions over legalities have already been raised with some lawyers claiming to x-ray children in such circumstances might constitute assault.
Wigan Labour MP Lisa Nandy said: 'The UK Border Agency has a responsibility, not only in a welfare capacity but a moral and legal duty and there is significant levels of opinion that this is wrong. Government may say it is voluntary but there is no real meaningful voluntary consent
as people are desperate to prove they are who they say they are and how old they are.'

Ms Nandy also said dental x-rays were not a definitive science and can be two or three years out either side of a person's actual age.
'There is also a significant body of medical opinion and experience that says malnutrition and trauma can make a difference on skeletal make-up of a person, which includes their teeth,' she added.
'From a child protection, health and ethical point of view I have serious concerns about this and I will be pursuing it in Parliament and I hope the scheme is never re-started. Not only is it unethical but also harmful to expose someone to radiation for reasons other than medical purposes. This
has no medical benefit.'

In response to questioning from Ms Nandy, immigration minister Damian Green said no discussions have taken place with the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the issue.
He added: 'The UK Border Agency has engaged with the Department for Education and the Department of Health. Agency officials have also met with representatives of the National Research Ethics Service. The agency has received correspondence from the chief medical officer, the British Dental Association and the Children's Commissioner for England. The agency
has sought legal advice on the legality of the trial.'

But he also said: "At any stage of the process, right up until the X-ray is taken, the individual can change their mind and no adverse inference would be drawn from a decision not to take part. The whole process would be entirely voluntary.'
The UK's children's commissioners previously also condemned the plans.
A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: 'While discussions are ongoing, we have paused the trial.
'The trial's aim was to improve the age assessment process and would operate on a voluntary basis. Determining age is vital to ensure that both adults and children receive age-appropriate services.'
Children's minister Sarah Tether added: 'I can confirm that no x-rays have taken place and that the trial has stopped. Discussions are currently taking place with the National Research Ethics Service.'
The pilot was planning to involve volunteers who are assessed as adults by Croydon council but maintain they are under 18. They would have had the dental X-ray at Guy's hospital, London.
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