Author Question: Police Notification of Violent Injuries by the ER

Dale Asks:

I see in TV shows and movies people who are shot or stabbed go to get medical treatment and yet they never deal with the police. Or they refuse to go because they are afraid that it will get reported.  If a person is taken to the ER with a knife wound or gunshot wound, would the medical staff have to report it to the police?

Jordyn Says:

Police car lights close up. A group of policemen on the background.

Police car lights close up. A group of policemen on the background.

Yes, we have to notify the police if a person is shot or stabbed with nefarious intent. Knives can cause lots of wounds that aren’t criminally motivated. Think about the person slicing vegetables and cuts their finger. Knife wound . . . not criminally motivated. We wouldn’t call the police.

The most important aspect is whether or not the person is being truthful regarding their injury. It’s obvious if someone comes in with a gunshot wound that something criminal has likely happened.

If a person comes in with a knife stuck in their chest, we’re likely getting the police involved even if they say it was an “accident”. However, say a woman comes in with a defensive knife wound to the palm of her hand as she tried to keep her boyfriend from stabbing her, but she tells us that she cut it grabbing a knife from the bottom of a sink full of soapy water. If the woman doesn’t have any other suspicious injuries, we probably wouldn’t question her story.

In all honesty, we can only help patients as much as they are willing to help themselves. If they are truthful about the violence involved in whatever type of injury they have (particularly beatings from domestic abuse) then there is help we can offer them.

Ever wonder why you’re asked when presenting for medical care whether or not you feel safe? This is inherently because we know, as healthcare providers, that it is hard for victims to speak up. That question is your open door. If you feel you can’t answer honestly at the time, then look for a way to speak to your nurse or physician privately. Sometimes we try and facilitate a conversation like this by asking other visitors to step out of the room. If we do this, it should signal to you that we are suspicious that your injury did not happen the way you stated and we’re trying to find a way to help you.

It is true a patient might not seek medical treatment for fear of police involvement. The same can be true for child abuse injuries. A parent may not seek treatment or delay treatment for fear of being reported to child protective services and/or the police.

See how the different variables can vary to increase conflict in your story?

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