Legal Role of Hospital Staff in Reporting Child Abuse
Healthcare provider owes their patients a duty of care. However, most cases of child abuse in healthcare facilities go unreported for legal, fear, and ethical reasons. For example, at Roosevelt Hospital, healthcare providers claimed that they failed to report increasing cases of child abuse in the facility since doing so promotes a child’s (patient) best interests. The other reasons provided by the healthcare providers in the facility are even if they report, the parent may still gain custody of a child. As a result, some healthcare providers believe it is useless to report. The final reason cited by the facility’s Chief Resident is the duty the Hippocratic Oath places on physicians – healthcare providers are required by the Hippocratic Oath to do what they believe is in the best interests of their patients and mutual trust. Based on moral duty, physicians fail to report or conduct selective reporting of child abuse cases that they encounter. According to the Hippocratic Oath, physicians are required to treat patients to the best of their ability, pass through teaching the secrets of the profession and medicine to the next generations, and preserve patients’ privacy. The Chief Resident at the healthcare facility cites preserving the patients’ privacy and acting in the best interest of a patient as the reasons they underreport or fail to report cases of child abuse. However, their actions are illegal and contravene Monkota state law – which requires healthcare services professionals to report any suspected child abuse or neglect to welfare authorities or the police. Healthcare providers are in a dilemma on whether legal, moral, or professional code of ethics should apply when attending to abused children. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) mandates every state to have procedures or provisions requiring certain professionals or people in society to report both known and suspected cases of Child abuse. Roosevelt Hospital staff and Chief Resident Officer have violated both state and federal laws for their failures to report known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect in the facility.
According to the case scenario, the healthcare providers at Roosevelt Hospital are failing or underreporting cases of child abuse or neglect because of the Hippocratic Oath, profession’s code of ethics, or moral duty. However, the four reasons do not feature in the country’s hierarchy of laws. The nation’s Constitution, federal laws, and state laws are among the top laws based on the country’s hierarchy of laws. CAPTA is a federal law that grants powers to states to formulate laws that give specific professionals the power to report unknown or suspected cases of child abuse and neglect in the jurisdictions. Based on CAPTA legislation, Monkota state laws granted healthcare professionals the legal duty to report cases of neglect or child abuse to the authorities. Consequently, the failure to report any case based on moral obligation or professional’s code of ethics is a violation of the law and parties should be apprehended for failing to administer their legal duties.
Chief Resident Officer argument that physicians are supposed to protect the best interests of their patients is invalid since the victims are children and they do not enjoy any autonomy in the medical setup. In the United States medical system, autonomy and personhood are intrinsically dependent on age. Minors deserve to be protected and based on their ages they cannot independently make medical decisions on their own. Additionally, medical providers owe their patients a duty of care. Consequently, any form of malpractice or negligence in their treatment should be punished by law. Eads (2013) asserts that about five children die every day in the United States because of child abuse. Furthermore, in 2008 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received over 3.3 million reports of child abuse and neglect (Eads, 2013). Unfortunately, the number of child abuse cases are on the rise but the number of reported incidences among healthcare providers continue to be on the decline (Eads, 2013). Research reported that child reporting of child abuse cases among primary care providers indicate that 21% of suspected cases are not reported making the underreporting of child abuse cases by healthcare providers an epidemic in the country (Eads, 2013). The underreporting, selective reporting, and not reporting makes the caregivers an accessory of the crime because they are obligated by both federal and state law to report such cases. As a result, they deserve to be charged in court. For example, medical providers or anybody required to report cases of child abuse by law who fail to report such cases, who knowingly and willfully fails to report or prevents others from reporting are guilty of a felony of the third degree which upon conviction the person may be imprisoned for a term not exceeding five years or pay a fine of $5,000. The law obligates Mankota health providers to report cases of child abuse and failure is a violation of CAPTA and state laws that warrants the parties to be charged in court for their offences.
Torts are described as an omission or act that gives rise to harm or injury to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which the courts have the power to impose liability on a tortfeasor. Bal (2009) asserts that medical malpractice is an act or omission by a healthcare provider or physician during the treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community. The act or omission may result in any injury to the patient. Medical malpractice is a form of tort that focus on dealing with professional negligence. The United States has set for elements that patients must prove to make a successful claim of medical malpractice (Bal, 2009). The elements for proving medical malpractice in the United States include the existence of a legal duty on the part of a medical provider to provide care and treatment to a patient. Based on the Roosevelt Hospital case scenario, the healthcare providers are mandated by law to report known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect but they failed to adhere to the law (Bal, 2009). The other elements include the existence of damages that flow from the injury that can help the nation’s legal system to provide redress – based on the facts of the case continued abuse and neglect of the children by their parents or guardians is the injury because it can be stopped if reported (Bal, 2009). The other two elements are a medical provider’s breach of duty do not adhere to the standards of the profession, and the existence of a causal relationship between breach of duty and injury (Bal, 2009). At trial, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the four elements. However, the failure to report cases of child abuse and neglect in cases where a child dies should be treated as an intentional tort has the caregivers had the power to prevent the death (Bal, 2009). Unintentional torts such as negligence and malpractice contribute to continued cases of child abuse in society.
Non-Judicial Resolution and Corporate Liability
The Chief Resident Officer and other medical providers who have failed to report cases of child abuse and neglect contrary to both the federal and state laws should face suspension and revocation of license because of malpractice and illegal conduct. The government in the CAPTA legislation and Mankota state laws makes it mandatory for medical providers to report any known or suspected cases of malpractice in the facility. However, some medical providers at Roosevelt Hospital failed to report the case or underreported which is an illegal act as it violates the requirements of CAPTA and Mankota state laws. Furthermore, the other ground for the suspension and revocation of the license of a healthcare professional is performing a specific action prohibited by a statute. Underreporting and failure to report cases of child abuse is an action prohibited by federal and state statutes in the country; thus, they are guilty of an offence. Based on the act and case of every healthcare provider involved in the illegal act the board can decide whether to suspend or revoke their license.
Overall, medical providers are guided by laws and code of ethics when administering their duties. Healthcare professionals owe their patients a duty of care when administering treatment or care to them. Failure by some of the staff at Roosevelt Hospital to report cases of known and suspected child abuse in the facility is a crime as they violate CAPTA and state regulations. The malpractice and lead to the suspension or revocation of their licenses as the actions are illegal and it contributes to the performance of a specific action prohibited by the federal and state statute. Fighting child abuse and neglect in the United States require a collaborative approach among all stakeholders. Underreporting or failure to report such cases is a violation of the law and the rights of the affected children.
Bal, B. S. (2009). An introduction to medical malpractice in the United States. Clinical orthopaedics and related research, 467(2), 339-347.
Eads, B. S. N. (2013). Breaking silence: Underreported child abuse in the healthcare setting. Online Journal of Health Ethics, 9(1), 1.