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On Being a Doctor |

Seeking Asylum from Torture: A Doctor's View

Sondra Crosby, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA 02118.

Requests for Single Reprints: Sondra S. Crosby, MD, Boston Medical Center, ACC-5, 850 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118; e-mail, scrosby@bu.edu.

Ann Intern Med. 2007;147(6):431. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-147-6-200709180-00016
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The woman had been kept as a sex slave for so long that it was difficult for her to understand that she was a free person, deserving of human compassion and dignity. She was raped, shackled, beaten, burned, forced to drink human blood and eat human flesh. I had many sleepless nights while I was documenting her story for a medical affidavit as part of her political asylum application. Because of her fragility, the attorney had asked special permission for me to attend the affirmative asylum interview. Sitting in the small, cramped room, she had to relive her horror one more time. The interpreter cried. The officer was visibly shaken. I sat with clenched hands, sweat dampening my dress. Her sense of linear time was nonexistent, and her answers to questions based in Western culture were sometimes confusing. The officer was compassionate and sensitive, and I believed she would grant asylum.





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Doctors Assisting Torture Survivors Save Lives
Posted on September 19, 2007
Gary J. Stadtmauer
Mt Sinai School of Medicine, NY, NY, Pro Bono Advisor,Doctors of the World-USA, Human Rights Clinic
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

We applaud Dr. Sondra Crosby's work with torture survivors and the Annals for publishing her story (1). Many healthcare workers across the country provide assistance to torture survivors seeking asylum. Initiatives like the Human Rights Clinic, run by the health and human rights organization Doctors of the World-USA, have trained hundreds of volunteers to recognize the physical or mental health manifestations of torture and provide survivors with the evidence they need to support their asylum claims. The need for such efforts is greater than ever since there is now a filing deadline of one year for asylum seekers (2). Some are simply too traumatized or otherwise unable to file on time.

Dr. Crosby states that the overall grant rate of asylum seekers is 23%. The situation is even worse for those without an attorney in which case positive adjudication of asylum cases is less than 7% (3). However, physicians and mental health professionals can dramatically alter this. Among individuals served by the Human Rights Clinic, asylum was granted in approximately 80% of those cases in which a medical or psychological affidavit was included as part of the asylum process (4).

Torture survivors form a vulnerable population are often in grave danger if returned to their native countries. Asylum granted is often a life saved.


1- Seeking Asylum From Torture, A Doctor's View. Ann Intern Med. 2007; 147: 431.

2- Media Alert, Human Rights First. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/media/2001_1996/asylum31198.htm accessed on September 19, 2007.

3- Report 160, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University. http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/160/ , accessed on September 19, 2007.

4- Personal Communication, based on attorney records and Doctors of the World-USA Human Rights Clinic files

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

Hats off!
Posted on October 10, 2007
Ajit S Kashyap
Command Hospital (Central Command), Lucknow Cantt India
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

Sir, We applaud from the bottoms of our hearts the excellent and courageous work being done by Dr Sondra Crosby. May her tribe increase! sincerely Ajit S Kashyap Kuldip P Anand Surekha Kashyap

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

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