Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Child Abuse Pediatrics Now A Specialty

As familiar as we are, thanks to TV with its portrayal of crime scene investigations, forensic autopsies and the like, with the fact of child abuse, it may come as a surprise to learn that only now, in 2009, has a medical specialty dealing with abuse of children been created. This NYT article by pediatrician Perri Klass has the very human details about why this specialty is needed and the special sensitivity it requires.

Up to now, family pediatricians and hospital staff are the ones given the awful task of seeing injuries in children and trying to decide whether they are the result of childhood accidents or trauma of abuse. If they think the latter, as "mandated reporters", police or children's services bureaus must be notified.

But who do they look to to help make this discrimination? There are experts, but often the decision to let it go or come down like a hammer on parents is not based on much of anything besides intuition, a comment by a colleague or cop, or personal fears about getting in trouble for reporting something that might be ambiguous. This new certification is a step in creating a pool of experts to help first responders sort it all out.