A recent article in the Australian titled “Murders should take truth serum to reveal victims’ bodies say leading barristers” has sparked a debate whether the use of truth serum on prisoners convicted of murder to find the location of the bodies is ethical.

Which side of the fence do you sit on?

What is Truth Serum?

Truth Serum or “Sodium Thiopental, Pentothal” is a powerful drug that has the ability the alter the mind of the person taking it to extract truthful statements from people.

The Truth Serum is administered and slows neural connections, lower inhibitions and ultimately reduces one’s capacity to lie. Truth Serum is sometime used to treat insomnia, but taking too much of this drug in a short interval can prove lethal.

Truth serum has been used as an essential tool of the Indian police throughout history, even after the High Court of India ruling stated that it was “cruel, inhuman and degrading”. Police in India administer the drug when there is an uncooperative suspect in an attempt to elicit a confession.

In the article featured in the Australia, the barrister Ms Cunneen, stated that “the use of chemicals to learn key details about convicted criminals’ offences was a great idea.”

In theory the use of truth serum could be a way to:

  • Ensure that justice is served;
  • The victims’ families have peace and know what happened to their loved ones;
  • Protect the community; and,
  • Serve as a deterrence for criminals not to commit these types of offences.

However, the use of truth serum could fundamentally breach many human rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to autonomy over one’s body. The court would have to make an order that the offender would have to take a dosage of truth serum prior to questioning in court. This creates a moral dilemma, does an offender need to give up their right to autonomy of their own bodies and right to silence to aid in the course of justice?

So, what is the alternative solution?

In, Queensland under the Corrective Services Act 2006-

193A Deciding parole applications—no body-no parole prisoner.

(1) This section applies to a no body-no parole prisoner’s application for a parole order.

(2) If a no cooperation declaration is in force for the prisoner, the board must refuse the application.

(3) If the prisoner has been given a notice under section 175Q, the board must consider the application under section 193.

(4) If subsections (2) and (3) do not apply, the parole board must defer the hearing of the application and request a commissioner’s report under section 175M (2).

The no-body parole law is the alternative solution to incite offenders to give information regarding the bodies to the police and allowing offenders to have autonomy of their own bodies, rather than administrating truth serum to offenders.

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