What to expect before your assessment
FMLS doctors are medical doctors with training and experience in assessing people who have suffered from torture and trauma, and writing medicolegal reports about this.
Before your appointment the doctor will have read documents provided by your legal representative, including your witness statement if you have done one.
The doctor will not usually have access to your medical records before the assessment. It can be helpful to bring any GP or hospital letters and medications with you to help the doctor understand any health problems or medication you have had.
What will the FMLS doctor ask me?
During an appointment with a FMLS doctor you will be asked to talk about what has happened to you, how this has affected you, and about your health since that time. We know that this can be hard to talk about and we will support you during the interview.
It is important to give the doctor as much information as you can, but you should also tell the doctor if there are things you can’t remember well or feel confused about.
The doctor will ask you about any health problems you have and any treatments you have had.
The doctor will ask about other experiences in your life, such as childhood, family life, school, and work because this information helps us to write a report about what has happened to you and about your health before and after your torture and trauma.
Will the doctor examine me?
The doctor will usually examine you, to look at any scars or marks you have. You will be asked to undress so that the doctor can examine all your scars and marks, but will be treated with dignity and you will not be asked to do anything which you feel uncomfortable with.
It is important that you tell the doctor if you feel worried about being examined because we know that this is not always easy.
The doctor will ask you what caused the scars and marks on your body. We understand that many people cannot always remember how they got every scar or mark and it is important to tell us when you are not sure or do not know the cause.
The doctor will look at the scars and marks very closely and will draw a body diagram of them. You may be asked for your permission to take photographs of your scars and marks. The reasons why photographs will be useful for the doctor in preparing the report will be explained to you. One photograph will show your face so that we know that the photographs are of you. You have the right to say that you do not want to have photographs taken.
The doctor will also look at scars and marks which were not caused by any trauma such as vaccinations and birth marks.
How long will the appointment take?
The assessment can often take much as two or three hours because there will be a lot to talk about and because you might have a lot of scars to look at. You can tell the doctor if you would like a break at any time.
I need an Interpreter
When required there can be an interpreter present during your interview. This can be helpful even if your English is quite good, because some medical words and questions can be harder to understand. Interpreters are professionally trained and have strict rules on confidentiality. The interpreter will not talk to anyone else about your case.
If you think you need an interpreter or have questions about interpreters please ask your legal representative.
The FMLS report
After your FMLS appointment the doctor will write a report about your health and any scars, marks or medical problems which you may have.
This report will be reviewed by a lawyer from FMLS and sometimes by another doctor before it is sent to your own legal representative. It takes around five weeks to get the report to your legal representative.
FMLS reports, like all medico-legal reports, are written in a particular way and follow international standards and rule established by the UK courts. The reports must be objective (based upon what the doctor sees) honest and impartial (not taking sides) and have to consider that there could be other causes for your health problems or scars or marks, and talk about how likely these other causes are.
Your legal representative will be able to talk you through the report, what it means, and where it will be sent.
The only time that we would break this rule is if we were very worried about your safety or about someone else’s safety; for example, if we thought you were going to hurt yourself. We would not talk to anyone about you without explaining this to you first.
Support after the appointment
After your appointment you may feel very tired or upset, especially when you have talked about very difficult experiences. It is important to take good care of yourself afterwards. You may find it helpful to see a friend or family member or plan to rest afterwards.
If you are feeling very upset you could also speak to your GP or call the Samaritans who are a group offering telephone support to people in distress, on 116 123.
If you have health problems which your FMLS doctor thinks might need treatment, they will ask you to make an appointment with your GP. FMLS doctors cannot give you medical advice or treatment or prescribe medicine, but they may offer to write you a letter for your own doctor to help them understand your problems when you go to see them.
FMLS doctors are not legally trained and cannot give you advice on your case.
If you have any questions about your FMLS appointment or report, please speak to your legal representative.