Dr. Maternus has been the family doctor for the Garrett family for 15 years. He has...

Dr. Maternus has been the family doctor for the Garrett family for 15 years. He has delivered all six of the Garrett children and belongs to the same church as the couple. Recently, during a routine checkup on Tom Garrett, age three, he notices suspicious bruises in places that do not fit in with the father's story of the child falling out of bed. Ordinarily, he would report this as suspected child abuse. In this case, he keeps it to himself. It is unthinkable that the Garretts would abuse a child. Why start an investigation that will only cause ill feelings?

                Does Maternus know the Garretts so well that he is justified in breaking the law? What danger does he run by not obeying the law? What dangers is he exposing the child to? What harms can come from following the law? Note that the law calls for extreme confidentiality in the investigation. In a large percentage of cases, the investigation leads to no action.

Homework Answers

Answer #1
  • Dr. Maternus actions are not justified. Even though he knows Garrett's well, he should raise a complaint on the basis of his observations. Dr. Maternus has an obligation to take reasonable care for protecting the patient, in this case, Tom. Child abuse laws in most of the States mandate this reporting.
  • Dr. Maternus can be held liable and lose his license if there is a true case of Tom getting abused by the Garett family.
  • Dr. Maternus is exposing the child to continued abuse by the family by not opening up about the case or complaining about Garett's to authorities.
  • Dr. Maternus can lose his relationship with the Garrett family if there is no case of child abuse. Further, Garett's can sue Dr. Maternus for complaining against them without a reasonable proof. In some extreme cases, there is danger to one's life for reporting such incidents.
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