Why Haitian Refugee Patients Need Trauma-Informed Care

Synapse 66 (8) (2022)
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Owing to its grappling with a motley of intricate socioeconomic, as well as medico-legal, crises, Haiti has found itself bereft of some of its people, many of whom have had to leave the Caribbean country in search of improved lives elsewhere. Receiving some of the Haitian refugees fleeing abject poverty, unemployment, and other harms and barriers has been the United States, one of Haiti's northern neighbors and a country that has played an outcome-determinative, if not outsized, role in steering the country toward its presently hobbled state. Drawing on the U.S.’s recent treatment of Haitian refugees, this paper argues that U.S. reception of Haitian immigrants rubs salt in the wound of a long history of dehumanizing and oppressive abuses endured by Haitians. Furthermore, and more importantly, this paper posits that U.S. failure to wholly embrace its legal obligation to accept Haitian refugees under international law needs to be understood in the light of the specific horrors inflicted by science, in pre-independence Haiti, on non-consenting, Afro-Haitian experimental subjects. And by extension, such a contextually-nuanced understanding is crucial in shaping the delivery of healthcare services to Haitian refugees fortunate enough to remain in the U.S. —as an awareness and appreciation of the socio-historical context of patients' lived experiences, i.e., their complete social history, can furnish important clues vis-à-vis the presence and etiologies of disease, influence the foci of physical exams, and generally pave the way for the provision of cost-efficient and evidence-based care.

Author's Profile

Woodger G. Faugas
UCSF School of Medicine


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