Doctor facing jail for refusing to examine abuse victims insists on need for psychological evidence
Gürcan Altun (3R) is facing between three months and a year in prison for 'neglect of duty and misuse of legal obligation.' AA photoThe legal system should not give priority to physical evidence in cases of sexual abuse, according to a doctor who has been put on trial for not examining three young girls despite a prosecution order to do so.
“What they want in fact is concrete evidence. But even in the first 72 hours, it’s not possible to determine more than half of the [physical marks],” Gürcan Altun told daily Radikal in an interview published May 11, emphasizing the importance of psychological damage.
Altun defended his decision, saying the three victims aged between 10 and 13 suspected of being subjected to sexual abuse refused the physical examination after he had explained the procedure to them. The case, however, sparked a lively debate on whether doctors should act solely in line with alleged victims’ desires when there is an ongoing investigation to determine abuse.
According to Altun, the current judicial methods are not adequate in sexual abuse cases.
Prosecutors in the northwestern province of Edirne sent the victims to the hospital to ascertain if “they there were traces of anal intercourse and whether the girls were still virgins,” Altun said. The prosecutors also formally requested a female doctor, he added.
“In cases in which the wounds have healed with time, an assessment of the mental health of the victims can help shed light on the investigations because there is no possibility that the [victims’] mental health will have remained undamaged [after sexual abuse].”
Altun also said cases involving children were more difficult, as they had a tendency to hide abuse. “A relationship of trust should first be established. The number of child psychologists today is, though not enough, significant. But the courts persistently ask for medical reports. With examinations, the risks of trauma increases. However, these cases could be solved without treating the children poorly,” Altun said.
Altun is facing between three months and a year in prison for "neglect of duty and misuse of legal obligation” but has countered, saying he asked his patients one-by-one if they knew why they were in hospital and that he explained the steps of the particular medical examination.