Reporting abuse has been a legal and ethical dilemma for years in the healthcare system. Some physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers are quick to report abuse while others are more reluctant to report abuse in fear of overreacting to an occurrence. This leaves children and the elderly in unknown state of protection from their abusers.
While these medical personnel are reluctant to report abuse, there are approximately 2,000 reported deaths in children due to abuse each year. With the elderly, the number of deaths is uncertain. In the case of the elderly, medical examiners have difficulty separating possible abuse from normal health issues and injuries. It is noted that most senior citizens that report abuse generally are twice as likely to die within a year of the abuse report as senior citizens not abused.
Suspicion of child abuse or neglect by a physician does not declare that a child has been undeniably abused or neglected; this is just a red flag showing that a further investigation into the care of the child should take place. Physicians are not very forthcoming in reporting some cases. They feel too close to the parents, they do not trust their state child protective services, or they are not certain that the evidence is not the result of an undiagnosed condition. There has been a change since 2009 that helps with these dilemmas. There are now board certified specialists known as child abuse pediatricians. These specialists can provide added knowledge when an occurrence with a child is in question. The number of child abuse and neglect cases reported each year is unacceptably high and with specialists becoming available to aid in these incidences, it lowers the dilemmas for the initial attending physicians.
The child abuse and neglect death rate is higher than sudden death syndrome of infants. Hospitals incur more than $70 million in costs regarding the abuse and neglect against children. These numbers only include those cases that are reported, it is unknown what the true numbers of cases each year. Many children are never brought to a medical facility for care or die before receiving any medical assistance for the injuries they receive.
Reporting elderly abuse and neglect is typically more difficult for an attending physician. The abuse and/or neglect may be more varied than as in the cases of children. Elderly abuse and neglect is not just...