Doctors Rarely Report Suspected Nursing Home Abuse

Apparently, “Do no harm,” means keeping a tight lip on suspected nursing home abuse if you’re among the thousands of U.S. doctors who every year fail to report the abuse found to affect an estimated 2.1 million older Americans. This according to the Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s most prestigious newspaper in article reviewing the recent failures in the medical community on reporting elder and nursing home abuse. The article reveals what too many Tennessee nursing home abuse attorneys know firsthand: Doctors are rarely the persons who report elder abuse.

What’s startling, even to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer like myself, is the percent reported: Only 2% of all cases of suspected nursing home or other elder abuse/neglect is reported by doctors. Some studies find the number even lower, despite it being the law in most states, including Tennessee, to report any suspicion of elder abuse.

As our nation’s elderly population grows, such a minute portion of reported abuse is appalling. Not every person in a Tennessee nursing home has a loving family who makes frequent visits. If doctors bound by oath will not protect their patients, who can we hope will?

Despite the graying of America, not all doctors know what signs to look for to detect abuse and neglect in the elderly and fewer physicians still have specialized geriatrics training. Cases of Tennessee doctors turning a blind eye are not unknown to lawyers. Doctors sometimes do so out of loyalty to the abuser (family member, nursing home staff, etc.), sometimes from fear of a legal hassle of having to testify on a suspicion or because the injuries or warning signs are not conclusively from abuse. Although there is no specific nursing home abuse legislation solely for doctors, the adult abuse law in Tennessee is quite clear: Any person, including physicians, must report his or her suspicions.

If you suspect your loved one of suffering nursing home abuse, do not sleep on your suspicions. Too often clients in Tennessee nursing home abuse cases suspect something is wrong but took no action under their loved one suffered serious injury or met an untimely death. Do not wait for doctors, staff, or others to speak up.

    To report a suspicion of elder abuse in Nashville contact Tennessee Adult Protective Services at (615) 532-3492 or call 1-888-APS-TENN to report suspicions of elder abuse in other parts of Tennessee.
    If you believe your loved one in a Tennessee nursing home has suffered injury from nursing home abuse or neglect, contact our Nashville attorneys to discuss your case with qualified nursing home abuse attorneys.
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