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Practice What Your Patient is Thinking

When your patient is a survivor of torture

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i5019 (Published 09 November 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5019
  1. Kolbassia Haoussou

Kolbassia Haoussou (@haoussou) explains what doctors can do to help refugees who have experienced torture

I arrived in the UK some years ago after I fled persecution in my country. I don’t want to share too much about my past but I am drawing on my personal experience and those of others like me—normal people forced into desperate situations because of torture. I was detained by the UK authorities after I tried to secure protection through the asylum process. After my release, and with the help of other refugees, I went to see a local doctor because I had headaches, I was bleeding, could not sleep, was having nightmares, and I needed help.

Explain your role

For many people like me, trusting any person in a uniform or any person who you think may be an official is very hard. After torture it is easy to lose faith in other human beings. I have had to learn to trust again. Don’t assume that people will trust you or understand why you are asking particular questions. Many …

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