There are certain injuries seen in a hospital emergency room that must be reported to the authorities.
Any patient admitted to the ER with an assault injury should be reported to the police and a police report filed before the patient leaves the emergency room. Burn injuries must also be reported because of the possibility of arson or intent to injure.
Injuries from hitting (fists, clubs or other objects), stabbing, shooting and burns must all be reported – even if the patient states that the injuries were accidental or self-inflicted.
All deaths in the ER are generally reported to the coroner’s office. Other injuries that must be reported include:
There are at least two million reported cases of child abuse in the United States per year, mostly involving children under the age of four. The younger the child is the more danger is involved because the risk of death from battering is greater in younger children.
Suspicious injuries such as multiple bruises, cuts, burns or multiple fractures must be reported and evaluated for possible child abuse. Removal from the home by social services immediately or at a future date is considered. Admission to the hospital while a determination is underway is a protective measure that can be taken.
There are usually strict guidelines for treating a rape victim and gathering information. Police are contacted and generally respond to the hospital to question the victim. They bring a sealed rape kit that remains the property of police.
Inside the kit are a series of envelopes and cotton swabs, tubes for blood, a comb and forms for describing injuries. Evidence is placed inside the box, sealed, initialed and dated, and turned over to the police then and there.
Dead on arrival
A patient brought to the hospital DOA is another reportable event for the emergency physician. All such cases are reported to the medical examiner or coroner for investigation of possible foul play and to determine if an autopsy is indicated. Those cases marked for further investigation will be autopsied or studied (blood samples, drug levels, toxicology tests, etc.).
It is the ER doctor’s responsibility to pronounce the patient dead. Nothing should be done by the ER staff to change the appearance of the corpse since that would complicate any subsequent investigation.