A controversy is going on over a proposed bill, which calls for punishing medical professionals who fail to report suspected cases of child or elderly abuses.
Even when physicians report actual or suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement authorities, however, investigators often demand the informants prove them right, forcing doctors to avoid the cumbersome procedure.
“Most physicians who have experiences in reporting suspected cases of child abuse say they would ‘never report them again,’” said an official of the Korean Medical Association대한의사협회(KMA) during a conference aimed to prevent child abuse. “Physicians are very discontent with the investigating process treating informants as some suspects or something like that.”
|Korea Medical Association held a conference aimed at preventing child abuse by improving the reporting system of suspected cases, at the National Assembly Tuesday.|
Doctors are urged to report suspected child abuses because they deal with kids often and recognize the signs of ill-treatment. However, doctors have encountered harassment in the course of investigation from the police, and uncomfortable situations with the guardian. Doctors also worry that the child will have to live a life without parents, which could be a potentially harsher fate for the child, according to KMA officials,
Citing these and other issues, Shin Eu-jin, a KMA executive, stressed the need to introduce an institutional mechanism that helps physicians to participate in preventing and reporting of child abuse more actively.
Although pediatricians are required by law to report cases of child abuse, the actual rate hovers at around 20 percent, Shin noted, far lower than the comparable rates in other developed countries, including the U.S. reporting rate of around 70 percent.
As an attempt to increase the rate of reporting, a lawmaker has sought to increase the penalty for doctors who do not report cases of actual or suspected child abuse. Most participants at the conference vehemently disagreed with the idea, saying a stronger punitive measure would not increase the reporting rate and calling for the government to punish the offender, not the reporter.
They instead called for improving standards and procedures that allow doctors to report cases of child abuse, and help ease the cumbersome process.
The proposed measures included improving the reporting process, enhancing government support through preparing a standard investigation form for child abuse, adding “child protection screening” as part of the health check-up process, expanding online and offline education for doctors, and strengthening care for victimized children.
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