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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
4210.0: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 3:10 PM

Abstract #115094

Assessing claim of torture: Lessons from Doctors of the World USA's Human Rights Clinic

Rachel Porter1, Eva E. Metalios, MD2, Elizabeth Singer, MD1, and Gary Stadtmauer, MD1. (1) Domestic Programs, Doctors of the World USA, 375 West Broadway, New York, NY 10012, (2) Dept of Social Internal Medicine, and Doctors of the World, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 305 East 161st Street, Bronx, NY 10451, (718)579-2500, emetalio@montefiore.org

The Human Rights Clinic (HRC) is a project of Doctors of the World USA dedicated to linking medical professionals with asylum cases based on claims of having survived torture. HRC mobilizes health professionals to recognize the signs of torture and prepare affidavits to be used in immigration cases. While several organizations around the U.S. conduct similar work, there remains a dearth of information about the details of how to identify signs of torture, and how to ascertain the credibility of a claim of having been tortured. Therefore health care professionals who are interested in documenting torture work in an ambiguous zone where identifying the signs of torture can rarely be done with absolute certainty. The aim of the study is to: 1. Describe common indications of torture seen by HRC; 2. Assess the examination methods used by HRC volunteers, identify patterns, strategies and challenges to identifying torture; and 3. Assist in developing standardized guidelines supported by collective experience to assist doctors and mental health professionals in documenting torture. The study uses case file review and volunteer survey to examine indicators of the ability, efficacy, and confidence that health providers maintain to assess and document whether a client has been tortured. We look at three sets of indicators in the following domains: 1. Signs and symptoms of torture; 2. Content of interview; and, 3. Consistency of examination process. The sample is all cases in our east coast office where an examination took place during 2004 (estimated N³250) and all volunteers (N³200).

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will develop skills in four areas

    Keywords: Torture, Immigrants

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:

    I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

    Issues of Security and Political Context in Addressing the Needs of Refugees and Immigrants

    The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA