Torture survivors’ experiences of receiving surgical treatment indicating retraumatization
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionhttps://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0287994
Due to the invasive nature of surgical procedures and the involvement of medical personnel, torture survivors may experience re-traumatization during surgical treatment. This study aimed to explore torture survivors’ experiences of re-traumatization during surgical treat- ment as well as the process by which trauma-related emotions and responses are evoked during surgical treatment for torture survivors. Eight men, aged 45 to 72, from four different countries, who have lived in Norway for 6–40 years, were recruited. We assessed torture and surgical care experiences through in-depth interviews, and the data were analyzed using thematic analysis, resulting in five themes: (1) Interactions with healthcare providers, (2) Reactions during treatment, (3) Triggers causing re-experiences, (4) Avoidance, and (5) Suggestions to healthcare providers. In this study, survivors reported challenges receiving surgical treatment, indicating re-traumatization and difficulty returning to daily life following treatment. Participants reported little collaboration in care-related decision-making pro- cesses, lack of recognition of torture by healthcare providers involved in surgical care and experiencing healthcare professionals’ attitudes as a source of perplexity, frustration, and despair. Exacerbation of torture memories throughout treatment and re-experiencing of trauma symptoms aggravated these difficulties. Our findings suggest that surgical treatment can remind torture survivors of the traumatic aspects of torture, eliciting strong reactions and feelings like those experienced during torture.