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Human Trafficking Ethics Statement

As Christian healthcare professionals, we affirm that all humans have inestimable worth, having been created in God's image, and should not be trafficked by others. Accordingly, we grieve for victims of human trafficking and are compelled to oppose this evil.

Human trafficking is the contemporary practice of slavery. Human trafficking involves acts of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through the use of threat, abduction, fraud, deception, force or other coercive means for the purpose of exploitation. Its victims include, at a minimum, persons in forced labor, forced marriage (including child brides), child soldiers, persons trafficked for the removal of eggs or organs, and adults and children kept in bondage for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Healthcare professionals should be aware that human trafficking is a widespread yet often hidden problem and alert to the possibility that it may reach into their local communities. Its victims may be forced into migrant agricultural, domestic, restaurant, factory, or commercial sex work.

Victims of trafficking may come into contact with healthcare professionals when seeking treatment for bodily injuries such as fractures resulting from violence, torture or sexual assault; traumatic brain injury; sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, urinary tract infections or pubic lice; infectious diseases including hepatitis and tuberculosis; miscarriages or the sequelae of forced abortions; malnutrition; and sequelae of delayed diagnosis or lack of adequate medical care. Victims of trafficking have increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. Social harms from trafficking include the public burdens of dealing with its health consequences as well as the dissemination of infectious diseases into the general population. These problems represent only a partial list of the enormous medical and social consequences of human trafficking.

Healthcare professionals who do not directly treat victims of human trafficking nonetheless provide care and counsel to patients who may be end-users of human trafficking industries. Individuals who pay for commercial sex acts or purchase or view pornography become complicit with human degradation and commodification, which are at the root of human trafficking. The viewing of sexually explicit material is not victimless; rather, it promotes the economic demand that sustains an international sex industry that contributes to marital instability and divorce, enslaves its users and keeps its victims in bondage (see CMDA Statement on Human Sexuality).

The counsel of Scripture is unequivocally opposed to the dehumanization, commodification, and devaluation of human beings (see CMDA Statement on Human Life, Its Moral Worth). Accordingly, Christians historically have opposed human slavery and ministered to the oppressed and neglected.

As the body of Christ, and in the spirit of Isaiah 61:1 and Matthew 25: 35-40, Christian healthcare professionals should display the love of Christ in caring for victims of human trafficking. Victims may have difficulty establishing a relationship of trust; many have been betrayed by family members, and their predominant relationship may be with someone exploiting them. The Christian healthcare professional has an opportunity to demonstrate care and compassion through tangible acts that reflect the love that God has for them. The healthcare professional should treat the patient who may be a victim of trafficking in an empathetic, supportive and nonjudgmental manner with sensitivity to the victim's fear, fragile emotional state, and physical needs. In responding to victims of human trafficking, the healthcare professional should not express prejudice against the disadvantaged and marginalized, such as migrants, those forced into prostitution, the sexually abused, the disabled, the inarticulate, the poor, or the economically or socially deprived.

The primary obligation of the healthcare professional is to the welfare of the patient. The healthcare professional who has reason to suspect human trafficking is morally obligated to try to protect the patient from abuse or violence, and to respect the wishes of the adult victim in receiving care and in reporting trafficking. The healthcare professional may also be legally obligated to report to the appropriate authorities. Since exposing the trafficker might result in retaliation, interventions should be carried out in such a way as to minimize the risk of harm to the patient or the patient's family. Healthcare professionals should recognize that children are exceptionally vulnerable to exploitation and warrant special protection and advocacy. Healthcare professionals are legally mandated to report instances of trafficking of minors.

The campaign to oppose human trafficking and assist its victims represents an opportunity for secular organizations and faith-based ministries to work together toward the common good. Public agencies that allocate funding to programs that provide medical services to human trafficking victims should not compel faith-based ministries to compromise their moral integrity as a condition of receiving funding by, for example, requiring that such ministries provide abortion services (see CMDA Statements on Rights of Conscience and Moral Complicity with Evil). As Christian healthcare professionals, our concern for preborn human beings is morally inseparable from our concern for victims of human trafficking.


  • CMDA condemns human trafficking in all its forms and everywhere it is practiced.
  • CMDA urges its members to be alert in identifying and caring for victims of human trafficking. Healthcare professionals should ensure that they are well-informed about the medical and spiritual needs of trafficked persons and about caregivers' legal obligations and available resources regarding reporting and referral.
  • CMDA opposes policies and practices that defund or otherwise discriminate against faith-based agencies that care for victims of human trafficking yet on religious grounds do not provide or refer for abortion services.
  • CMDA encourages its members to use their knowledge and expertise proactively to help prevent the crime of human trafficking from occurring in their communities and countries.

Approved by the House of Representatives
48 approvals and 2 abstentions

May 2, 2013, Ridgecrest, North Carolina

Download file Human Trafficking Ethics Statement

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