Don’t Miss It: Recognizing and Documenting Evidence of Torture and other Persecution

Home to several outstanding and internationally known hospitals, as well as the nation’s leading medical school, it is no wonder Boston is recognized as the epicenter of the medical profession. However, it was in this same medical hub that a patient’s female genital-mutilation (FGM) injuries went unnoticed and unrecorded.

The victim twice gave birth at one of Boston’s leading hospitals, and despite undergoing pelvic exams throughout the course of her pregnancies, the scars of her severe FGM were never addressed by a single clinician. Her medical record provided no indication that anything was out the ordinary.

How could the obvious manifestations of FGM go unnoticed, particularly by the world-class doctors examining her throughout two pregnancies? Judging by the proven excellence of the hospital and the caliber of its doctors, it’s clear that the oversight was not due to lack of medical expertise. However, the clinicians clearly lacked training on how to recognize physical and psychological evidence of persecution, how to effectively treat patients from other cultures, or both.

The need for this type of medical training is critical. The US Office of Refugee Resettlement estimates that 500,000 survivors of torture live in the United States today. Torture survivors live in communities across the US, both urban and rural.

Special medical training to recognize and understand the consequences of human rights abuses is no longer a niche specialty only for clinicians working with asylum seekers. Such training is necessary for all physicians, psychologists, nurses, and social workers determined to aid their patients effectively. Because the majority of torture injuries are chronic, special training is imperative to ensure clinicians can adequately provide the comprehensive care that torture victims desperately need.

PHR is conducting two training sessions to provide clinicians with the skills necessary to recognize and document evidence of torture and other human rights abuses. The two training sessions, held in Washington DC on September 22 and 23, 2012, will provide participants with the ability to fully recognize and document the medical manifestations of past torture and abuse. Each day of this medical training has been approved for 6.5 CME credits by the American Academy of Family Practice.

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