January 2002Vol. 3, No. 1Forensic Emergency Medicine
Hospital emergency department physicians often have opportunities to play a significant role in the identification, evaluation, and treatment of child abuse patients, whose care involves significant forensic issues. While health care professionals have become increasingly aware of the incidence of child abuse and its manifestations, physicians may fail to make the diagnosis if they do not consider maltreatment as an option in all cases, even when the case involves a chief complaint that is not trauma related. Hence, serious issues may go unnoticed because physicians are unaware of less obvious clues and may not ask the right questions. Even when the diagnosis is clear, the authors caution care providers to ensure proper documentation and evidence to maximize law enforcement's chances of successful prosecution. Because health care providers are often the first encounter a child has with the child protection system, the authors maintain that evaluation must be carried out in a compassionate, supportive, and non-threatening manner that helps the victims get through the trauma as psychologically whole as possible. This is a reference that will give emergency care providers the necessary information to perform the essential tasks of recognition, evaluation, treatment, documentation, and understanding of victims of violence, abuse or neglect.
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