Documenting wife abuse: a Guide for physicians


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Abstract

An estimated 12% to 30% of women are assaulted by their male partners at least once during the relationship.Therefore, in their everyday practice, physicians are likely to encounter women who have suffered domestic abuse. The authors define wife abuse, outline epidemiologic aspects and discuss common signs and symptoms. In cases of suspected or confirmed abuse, it is very important for physicians to document the details of the injuries, the patient visit, any treatment and follow-up as well as to screen for associated conditions and ensure that any samples taken are not tampered with. When asked to disclose information by police or courts, physicians need to know when they are obliged to submit copies of their patients' medical records, when patient consent is required, what information should be divulged and how to defend this information in court. The authors present information about the necessary, relevant and appropriate evidence to be collected and documented for both medical and legal purposes. They also discuss the criminal justice system and the role of physicians in legal proceedings concerning wife abuse.

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