Ethics

One of the most challenging ethical dilemmas arising from child abuse relates to the parental rights of abusive parents or caretakers with regard to their children, particularly in medical settings.[100] In the United States, the 2008 New Hampshire case of Andrew Bedner drew attention to this legal and moral conundrum. Bedner, accused of severely injuring his infant daughter, sued for the right to determine whether or not she remain on life support; keeping her alive, which would have prevented a murder charge, created a motive for Bedner to act that conflicted with the apparent interests of his child.[100][101][102] Bioethicists Jacob M. Appel and Thaddeus Mason Pope recently argued, in separate articles, that such cases justify the replacement of the accused parent with an alternative decision-maker.[100][103] Child abuse also poses ethical concerns related to confidentiality, as victims may be physically or psychologically unable to report abuse to authorities. Accordingly, many jurisdictions and professional bodies have made exceptions to standard requirements for confidentiality and legal privileges in instances of child abuse. Medical professionals, including doctors, therapists, and other mental health workers typically owe a duty of confidentiality to their patients and clients, either by law and/or the standards of professional ethics, and cannot disclose personal information without the consent of the individual concerned. This duty conflicts with an ethical obligation to protect children from preventable harm. Accordingly, confidentiality is often waived when these professionals have a good faith suspicion that child abuse or neglect has occurred or is likely to occur and make a report to local child protection authorities. This exception allows professionals to breach confidentiality and make a report even when the child or his/her parent or guardian has specifically instructed to the contrary. Child abuse is also a common exception to Physician–patient privilege: a medical professional may be called upon to testify in court as to otherwise privileged evidence about suspected child abuse despite the wishes of the child and his/her family In many U.S. states and Australia, mandated reporters are professionals who, in the ordinary course of their work and because they have regular contact with children, disabled persons, senior citizens, or other identified vulnerable populations, are required to report (or cause a report to be made) whenever financial, physical, sexual or other types of abuse have been observed or are suspected, or when there is evidence of neglect. These professionals can be held liable by both the civil and criminal legal systems for intentionally failing to make a report, but their name can also be withheld. Mandated reporters include persons who have assumed full or intermittent responsibility for the care or custody of a child, dependent adult, or elder, whether or not they are compensated for their services. Abuse occurs where a victim has suffered physical injury inflicted other than by accidental means, has injuries, or is in a condition resulting from mistreatment, such as malnutrition, sexual molestation or exploitation, deprivation of necessities, emotional abuse or cruelty. Neglect may be defined as abandonment, denial of proper care and attention physically, emotionally, or morally, or living under conditions, circumstances or associations injurious to well-being. Typically, minimum requirements for what must be reported include: A description of how the reporter learned of the injuries or neglect and of any actions taken to assist Information on previous injuries, assaults, neglect or financial abuses The date, time, nature, and extent of the abuse or neglect The date of the report The perpetrator's name, address, and relationship to the (possible) victim The reporter's name, agency, position, address, telephone number, and signature Mandated reporters are required to file a report whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect or believe any resident of a care facility has been abused or neglected by a staff member of a public or private institution or facility that provides care. Whenever the results of an investigation leads to the conclusion that there is reasonable cause to believe that that there has been abuse or neglect perpetrated by staff, then the institution, school or facility must provide records concerning the investigation to the appropriate investigating agency and/or to the agency that licensed the facility. An institution may suspend employee(s) during an investigation, or, at the conclusion of an investigation, may impose penalties in addition to any separate penalties resulting from civil litigation or criminal prosecution. Employers may not discharge, discriminate or retaliate against an employee for making a good faith report or for testifying at an abuse or neglect proceeding. Mandated reporters are usually required to give their name when they make a report, but may request anonymity to protect their privacy. A mandated reporter who knowingly makes a false report will ordinarily have their identity disclosed to the appropriate law enforcement agency, and their identity may be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator of the reported abuse or neglect. A mandated reporter may be subject to penalties, though immunity from civil or criminal liability is granted to reporters who report in good faith. Immunity is also granted to reporters who, in good faith, have not reported. However, failure to report suspected abuse or neglect could result in fines or other sanctions, such as participation in a training program. Failure to act may result in even stiffer penalties, such as civil litigation or criminal prosecution with the prospect of potential imprisonment. Conflicts between a mandated reporter's duties and privileged communication statutes are common. It has been argued that the category of "mandatory reporters" should be expanded to members of the clergy; however in some more traditional denominations the conflict this creates with the "confessional" makes this unworkable