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Friday, September 30, 2011

GPs urged to look for signs of female genital mutilation in young patients

Monday, 5th September 2011
The United Kingdom

Family doctors have been urged to be aware of the signs of female genital mutilation in young girls from certain ethnical backgrounds.

Chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) Ethical Committee Dr Tony Callard was quoted by healthcare magazine Pulse as saying physicians should look out for signs of the issue throughout the year, although they may need to be particularly vigilant as kids come back from the summer holidays.

Girls who are especially at risk may be from countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Iraq, while they are usually between the ages of seven and nine.

The BMA has issued guidance for GPs on the matter, advising that patient confidentiality can be broken if a doctor is worried a child may have been harmed.

Female genital mutilation can include the removal of parts of the labia or clitoris, as well as the narrowing of the vaginal opening and Dr Calland suggested GPs try questioning parents gently if they suspect a girl may have undergone the procedure.

"Start off in a anonymous way, but obviously if there is a significant risk you are honour-bound to break the confidence," the expert advised, saying the issue should be treated in the same way as other types of abuse.

The World Health Organisation reports that up to 140 million women and children across the world have been subject to female genital mutilation, which can lead to problems urinating, bleeding and complications during childbirth.

by David Smith