How to care for survivors of torture
All doctors in the United Kingdom can expect to see patientsat some stage in their career who have been tortured. Caroline Jewels, Helen Maguire,Brian Fine, and Carol Cheal discuss how to identify and support survivors of torture
- By: Caroline Jewels, Helen Maguire, Brian Fine, Carol Cheal
Imagine you are a junior doctor in east London. Your next patient comes in complaining of chronic back pain. You ask more questions about the history of the pain, and he breaks down into tears. He goes on to explain that he is seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. He fled his country, where he had been held captive and tortured for six months. How do you react to this information? What do you say to him? How will you treat his pain? What support will you provide him with? How do you cope yourself?
What is torture?
The World Medical Association defines torture as “the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons, acting alone or on the orders of any authority, to force another person to yield information, to make a confession, or for any other reason.”1 The United Nations condemns