In the Courts: Child Abuse: Physicians Face Liability for Failure to Recognize and Report Abuse

January 22, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


A court of appeals in Pennsylvania held that although the Commonwealth's child abuse statute cannot be enforced by individual plaintiffs against several physicians who failed to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse, the statute does not prevent physicians from being sued for negligence for their failure to report suspected child abuse. The court emphasized that physicians owe a legal duty of reasonable care to their patients arising from the physician-patient relationship. Whether a particular physician fails to meet that duty of care in a particular case is a question for a jury to decide.

The lawsuit was brought after the death of an infant who had been examined over a period of months by various pediatric specialists and other physicians on numerous occasions. Some of the physicians had documented and otherwise communicated with other physicians treating the child about...

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