Few encounters are more disturbing to the physician than an encounter with a battered child or a tortured political prisoner. Distinct from each other, yet closely related, child abuse and prisoner torture may have similar physical and psychological effects, but their motivations, causes, and management often differ.
Political prisoners are tortured to obtain information, extract a confession, or simply to amuse the jailers. Sometimes, as in enforced confinement to mental institutions, the aim is to undermine the inmate's self-confidence and to discredit him in the eyes of society. Our sensibilities, albeit somewhat dulled by the revelations of mass torture in concentration camps, can be shaken still by disclosures of recently perpetrated tortures in prisons.
One such disclosure published in a recent issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal records a detailed study on 11 torture victims applying for refugee status, whose harrowing reminiscences were corroborated by scars and biopsy specimens