Identification and Treatment of Human Trafficking Victims in the Emergency Department: A Case Report

  • Patric Gibbons
    University of Massachusetts Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Hanni Stoklosa
    Reprint Address: Hanni Stoklosa, md, mph, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis St, Boston, 02115, MA
    University of Massachusetts Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
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Published:February 16, 2016DOI:



      Human trafficking victims experience extreme exploitation and have unique health needs, yet too often go undetected by physicians and providers in the Emergency Department (ED). We report a clinical case of human trafficking of a white, English-speaking United States citizen and discuss the features of presentation and treatment options for human trafficking victims upon presentation to the ED.

      Case Report

      A 29-year-old woman with a past medical history significant for intravenous drug abuse and recent relapse presented to the ED after a reported sexual assault. The patient was discharged that evening and returned to the ED the following day acutely suicidal. The patient divulged that she had been kidnapped and raped at gunpoint by numerous individuals as a result of a debt owed to her drug dealers.

      Why Should an Emergency Physician be Aware of This?

      Many human trafficking victims present to an ED during the course of their exploitation. To that end, EDs provide one of a limited set of opportunities to intervene in the human trafficking cycle of exploitation, and physicians as well as other ED staff should be equipped to respond.


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