Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Reporting Abuse

July 10, 2022

There are exceptions to the right to privacy. The law stipulates that the health care professional is required to report certain information to the appropriate authorities. The report should be given to a supervisor or directly to the police, according to agency policy. When acting in good faith to report mandated information (e.g., certain communicable diseases or gun­shot wounds), the health care professional is protected from liability.

In an effort to respond to the growing problem of child abuse, the federal Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act of 1973 made the reporting of child abuse mandatory. Health care professionals are mandated reporters. Failure to report suspected cases to the appropriate authorities may result in fines or imprisonment. Facilities have procedures in place to assist the nurse when making reports. Withholding medical treatment to an infant born with serious life-threatening handicaps is a form of child abuse. Congress enacted the Child Abuse Amendments in 1984 to protect the rights of these handicapped newborns to proper treatment and care. These regulations make any institution that receives federal funds legally responsible to investigate the withholding of medical treatment to an infant. In general, withholding of lifesaving treatment and care is a form of passive euthanasia (letting a person die) and medical neglect. This act carries the risk of professional neglect (medical malpractice) charges.

Spousal and elder abuse may also be a hidden problem within a family. Populations at increased risk include women and older adults (see Life Span Considerations for Older Adults box). Most states have responded to the issue of spousal and elder abuse by enacting laws to protect victims. Fines, restraining orders that prohibit contact by the abusing person, and even imprisonment are some of the ways often attempted to protect the victims of abuse. Abuse is an underreported crime. Only a portion of abuse cases are ever reported. It is the responsibility of the nurse to know the signs of abuse and the procedures for reporting suspected cases.

Lifespan Considerations: Older Adults

Elder Abuse

Factors that put older adults at risk for physical, emotional, or financial abuse include the following:

  • Declining physical health
  • Declining mental ability
  • Decreased strength and mobility
  • Loss of independence
  • Isolation
  • Loss of loved ones, friends, and relatives

These factors often make the older adult feel helpless and frightened. Impaired communication, decreased hearing acuity, and anxiety make assessment of an older adult more difficult, but be sure nonetheless to watch for the signs of abuse.

Workplace violence is another form of abuse that occurs at times in the health care setting. This form of violence includes verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, physical assault, and threatening behavior. Health care institutions are implementing policies and procedures to promote a safe work environment, and education is an important component of the awareness and prevention measures. Strategies to provide adequate supervision, employ security personnel, monitor work areas, and facilitate reporting of incidents represent efforts to decrease the incidence of workplace violence.