Legal, Social, Ethical, and Medical Perspectives on the Care of the Statutory Rape Adolescent in the Emergency Department

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Abstract

Rapes involving adolescents who present to the emergency department (ED) are fraught with ethical and legal complexities and are often emotionally turbulent for patients, their families, and medical providers. Management requires a thoughtful approach from multiple standpoints, including legal, psychosocial, ethical, and medical ones. However, there is no standardized sexual assault education for emergency medicine residents, and management practices vary widely.1,2 We present a hypothetical statutory rape case based on real cases that occurred in New York City and bring together the perspectives of an attorney on the legal parameters, two social workers on the psychosocial issues, an ethicist on the moral considerations, and a pediatric emergency physician—who is also a sexual assault forensic examiner—on the medical treatments. We aim to provide a framework for physicians to navigate issues of patient-physician privilege involving minors, privacy rules, and mandatory reporting laws.

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