by E. Marissa Lane, RN, BSN, JD
On November 1, 2005, a new law went into effect in Oklahoma changing the reporting requirements for health care professionals treating victims of suspected domestic abuse.
Prior to November 1, 2005, there was mandatory reporting for suspected cases of abuse. Under the new law, if the victim is an adult and is not "incapacitated" — the statute does not define what constitutes being "incapacitated" — there is no mandatory reporting by the health care professional unless requested by the victim. However, the new law does not effect mandatory reporting for children and incapacitated adults
The intent of the new law is to allow the victim the choice of whether to report the incident to the police. Reporting an incident often results in retribution against the victim by the abuser. In other words, if proper safeguards are not in place, reporting to the police may result in additional harm to the victim.
Thus, in some instances, the victim may not have the requisite resources needed to insure his or her safety. Additional time may be needed before making a formal report.
The following is a simple guide for the health care professional who is dealing with victims or potential victims of domestic abuse.
Q: Under what circumstances does this new law apply?
1. Domestic abuse, suspected domestic abuse or reported as domestic abuse by the victim.
2. Must be an adult (if a minor there is mandatory reporting and is not covered by this new law.)
3. Not incapacitated.
Q: What is required of the health care professional for victims of domestic abuse (either reported by victim as domestic abuse or suspected to be domestic abuse) who are adults and not incapacitated?
*Only IF requested by the victim.
*Law does not require health care professional to ask if victim wants to report.
*Editorial comment: Health care professional is encouraged to discuss this option with the victim, to allow victim the choice. Victim may not be aware the law has changed and may assume it will be reported.
GENERAL RULE-NO MANDATORY REPORTING IF:
*Over 18 years of age (ie., not a minor.)
*Not incapacitated adult.
*Treatment provided or prescribed
*Recommend that health care professional document that he or she made the mandatory referral described below:
*To Domestic Violence and Victim Service Programs
*24 hour State Safety Line
Q: What if the health care professional is caring for a child or an incapacitated adult who is a victim of domestic abuse?
The new law has no effect on these situations. There is still mandatory reporting for these protected groups.
The full statute can be found at 22 O.S § 58.
Internet links to Oklahoma statutes are as follows: www.oscn.net or www.oklegal.onenet.net.