It seems like any time a patient becomes unruely in Star Trek, the on call doctor immediately hyposprays him with something to knock him out.

How can it be ethically acceptable for doctors to just sedate patients whenever they become agitated?

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    Perhaps sedation techniques in the future are far less harmful or risky than today's standards. And if there's no risk, there's no ethical issues. – OghmaOsiris Oct 17 '11 at 20:35
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    I think you'd be surprised how often real life healthcare providers decide that someone is demonstrating a "psychological disturbance" and get a little loosey-goosey with Mr.Syringe. – erdiede Oct 17 '11 at 21:08
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    @Keen I have quite a few family members in the health care industry or formerly in the health care industry and they like to tell "fun" stories about why you don't act psycho in a hospital and expect to remain conscious. They apparently have this expectation of "safety" and if you violate that you get a quick trip to la-la land. – erdiede Oct 20 '11 at 19:48
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    @Osiris It's a little bold to say that if there's no medical danger from sedation it doesn't represent an ethical issue to sedate someone against their will. Obviously there are cases in which it would be justified, but sedating someone has many of the same practical impacts as locking them up. – Adam Wuerl Oct 22 '11 at 1:24
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    Can you list some specific examples where you think ST doctors act in a way that doctors wouldn't IRL? Because most of the ones I can come up with are basically hostile enemies being taken out without harming them (which real-life police would not bother with, at least in the U.S.) or prime-directive-related situations where they had to conceal their existence to prevent cultural contamination or the time where Troi was acting violently, which is similar to a psych ward situation. – Lèse majesté Mar 31 '14 at 8:14

The Doctors in Star Trek have relatively fast acting, safe, and easily administered sedatives. Further, they have injection methods that don't involve nearly the risk levels of current injection methods to doctor or patient.

Currently, it is acceptable practice to sedate and/or restrain any inpatient who presents a clear and present immediate danger to self or others. It's just a far more common occurrence in Star Trek than it is in our current society.

Further, it seems that they define assault differently. A non-inpatient must be a threat to life of others for sedation and/or chemical restraint to not be assault in most places at present, even tho' it would otherwise be ethical; the bar seems much lower before it's no longer assault in Star Trek.

And, as noted by HNL, the majority of patients are Starfleet members or dependents, and thus may have standing consent due to Starfleet service.

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    Also recall that most of the patients in question are Starfleet personnel. They consent to Starfleet regulations when they enlist, which would very likely not define sedation by a superior officer as assault (most medical officers carry the rank of Lt. Commander - en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Chief_medical_officer#Typical_ranks). – HNL Nov 17 '11 at 10:56
  • We see CMO's from LtJG to Commander. Bashir was a LtJG as was Lense; Carter, Chapel, Crusher, and pulaski are full commanders, Flox was a civillian. Boyce & Piper are unspecified. – aramis Apr 7 '17 at 9:30

The level of medical technology in Star Trek is significantly in advance of what we have today, and a whole lot of the procedures are undertaken with far less damage than we find today. Therefore, it seems that the technical ability makes procedures and treatment far less risky.

Patients who are restless and violent are a danger to themselves and others. Sedation in some form is a good idea. If we could sedate people easily ( without needles ) and safely ( i.e. without the dangers in sedation today ), then we would use it far more. However, trying to inject someone when they are restless is difficult.


Keep in mind that this is not a civilian hospital, this is a military vessel. High ranking officer's authority carries a lot more weight and personal freedoms are less important. The captain has the authority to throw unruly guests into the brig without being charged with kidnapping; likewise the medical personal can sedate unruly patients without being charged with assault.

After all, that patient isn't just disrupting the operation of one hospital, he is disrupting the operation of the sickbay for a vessel that could be called upon to enter combat at any time, and is responsible for protecting billions of lives.


TOS and TNG-era medical ethics is informed by at least a century of tutelage from a certain species that is famous for (among other things) inventing a nerve-pinch that instantly renders humanoids unconscious.

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