NJ Court Finds Accidental Poisoning Not Reportable Child Abuse, Exonerates Physician
May 30, 2014 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care
The New Jersey supreme court has found that the state's child abuse reporting law did not require an emergency physician to report child abuse when he treated a pediatric patient who was poisoned after supposedly accidentally ingesting cologne. In reviewing the state reporting law, the court found that it did not require reporting of incidents involving accidental poisoning when no additional evidence of abuse or neglect was present. No other signs of abuse existed, therefore, the physician reasonably did not suspect reportable abuse or neglect had occurred. The lawsuit was filed against the physician and the hospital where he practiced by the child's subsequent legal guardian who later adopted the child. The guardian claimed that the physician should have recognized that the poisoning was a form of abuse and reported it to the proper authorities. The child was vomiting, lethargic, and unable to walk when he was seen by a nurse and the physician, who diagnosed the child as being poisoned by ingesting cologne or another "chemical alcohol."