torture (better understood)

Torture can be defined as the deliberate or systematic infliction of physical or mental suffering to force another person to yield information, as a punishment or to destroy a person’s identity.

The aim of the physiotherapy treatment for persons who have undergone torture is to relieve or reduce pain, correct musculoskeletal dysfunctions, teach the client to cope with pain, and regain body awareness.

A good interaction and communication with  persons who have undergone torture is needed to optimize the treatment
Gard G. (2007) emphsasized factors important for good interaction in physiotherapy treatment of persons who have undergone torture in a qualitative study as: Personal characteristics, Professional and therapeutic competence and support, Language Factors, Time, and Frames.

Five factors in the interaction situation were important for a good interaction: cultural factors, treatments tailored to the patient’s needs, to develop confidence and trust, religious factors, and capacity to handle negative emotions.

All these factors have to be considered to improve the interaction between PTs and persons who have undergone torture.

this is quite clear where my professional duty is to treat a torture victim.

when my treatment can  be misused as a torture technique ,the actual problem arises.

as tony lowe’s example scenario where you are asked to examine a prisoner to determine whether they could weight bear on an injured leg, where you suspect that enforced standing could then be utilised as a torture technique. In such circumstances what would you do?  Do you diagnose that the prisoner could not weight bear even when your professional opinion would be that they could?

i may give the benefit to the victim and may advise not to bear weight because whomever the patient, my technique is to improve the well-being and not to inflict pain.


1 thought on “torture (better understood)

  1. Michael Rowe

    I hadn’t really considered the possibility of a physiotherapist being asked about a patient’s physical condition in order to determine whether or not they could be hurt by someone else. It shouldn’t surprise me though, since in South Africa we have a long history of our medical profession being complicit in human rights abuses that include torture (as highlighted in one of the readings for this topic).

    Even though it’s unlikely that we’ll ever have to treat someone who’s undergone torture, I think that the principles that emerged from this week are applicable to other areas of our practice that are relevant. For example, how many lives is worth one life? What value do we place on human lives? Are all human lives valued the same? These questions bring us back to the idea of equality and morality. Are we all equal? How different are our boundaries of what is “right” and “wrong”? Is torture ever the “right” thing to do? The United Nations says it never is. But, there are times when your personal morality might say that torture absolutely is necessary.

    I think that these are interesting questions that don’t need to be answered, but talking about them will help us to figure out some things about ourselves.


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