How Should Physicians Make Decisions about Mandatory Reporting When a Patient Might Become Violent?
AMA Journal of Ethics, January 2018
Mandatory reporting of persons believed to be at imminent risk for committing violence or attempting suicide can pose an ethical dilemma for physicians, who might find themselves struggling to balance various conflicting interests. Legal statutes dictate general scenarios that require mandatory reporting to supersede confidentiality requirements, but physicians must use clinical judgment to determine whether and when a particular case meets the requirement. In situations in which it is not clear whether reporting is legally required, the situation should be analyzed for its benefit to the patient and to public safety. Access to firearms can complicate these situations, as firearms are a well-established risk factor for violence and suicide yet also a sensitive topic about which physicians and patients might have strong personal beliefs.
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