Population Care

How to avoid bias in responding to suspected child abuse


Child abuse and neglect are common, with child protective services agencies getting roughly 4.4 million reports of maltreatment reports per year. The February issue of AMA Journal of Ethics® (@JournalofEthics) features perspectives on ethical, legal and clinical questions related to child abuse and neglect, illuminating ways physicians and medical students can be prepared to face structurally complex realities and uncertainties when taking care of abused children.

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As key communicators during or following clinical encounters, this issue also considers how physicians can approach healing and coping strategies. The February issue of AMA Journal of Ethics includes the following articles:

  1. How Should Clinicians Minimize Bias When Responding to Suspicions About Child Abuse?

    1. Following evidence-based approaches to evaluating and reporting suspicion of child maltreatment can help minimize bias and promote equity.
  2. Key Updates to Understanding Roles of Childhood Trauma in Overall Health

    1. Adverse childhood experiences and trauma influence health in ways that now garner more attention across the life-spectrum.
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  3. How Should Clinicians and Students Cope With Secondary Trauma When Caring for Children Traumatized by Abuse or Neglect?” 

    1. When health care professionals encounter child abuse and neglect, they can experience a range of emotions, such as anger, sadness and frustration.
  4. Why 1962 Matters in the History of Clinicians’ Responses to Abused and Neglected Children

    1. How society and medicine discussed and responded to child abuse changed dramatically in 1962. Since that time, the problem’s fuller scope has been revealed.

The journal’s February “Ethics Talk” podcast features a discussion with Andrea Asnes, MD, MSW, and Sundes Kazmir, MD, on medical child abuse, sites of pediatric neglect and how clinicians can best carry out their responsibilities as mandatory reporters. The February issue also features six author-interview podcasts. Listen to previous episodes of the podcast, “Ethics Talk,” or subscribe in iTunes or other services.

Also, CME modules drawn from this month’s issue are collected at the AMA Ed Hub™ AMA Journal of Ethics webpage.

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The journal’s editorial focus is on commentaries and articles that offer practical advice and insights for medical students and physicians. Submit a manuscript for publication. The journal also invites original photographs, graphics, cartoons, drawings and paintings that explore the ethical dimensions of health or health care.

Upcoming issues of the journal will focus on clinicians in government and meat and health. Sign up to receive email alerts when new issues are published.