The Nurse's Duty to Report Child Abuse Versus the Attorney's Duty of Confidentiality: The Nurse Attorney's Dilemma

Journal of Nursing Law

13 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2008

See all articles by Kathleen M. Kearney

Kathleen M. Kearney

Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Nursing

Date Written: January 25, 2007

Abstract

Nurses are specifically identified as mandatory reporters in a majority of state child protection statutes. The nurse's statutory duty to report child abuse conflicts with the duty to keep patient information confidential. State legislatures statutorily resolved this dilemma in deciding that the nurse's duty to report child abuse trumps the nurse's duty of confidentiality. The duty of the nurse attorney to report child abuse is not as clear, however, particularly when the information is gained through the confidential communications of an attorney-client relationship. The mandatory reporting versus duty of confidentiality conflict exists for nurse attorneys in states like Massachusetts that do not specifically identify or exclude attorneys under the child protection statute. Under these statutory schemes, the question remains as to whether or not the nurse attorney has a statutory duty to report a reasonable belief of child abuse. In balancing the nurse attorney's statutory and professional duties, it may be determined that nurse attorneys are discretionary, not mandatory, reporters of child abuse. As a discretionary reporter, the nurse attorney would utilize his or her professional experience and judgment before deciding to report a reasonable belief of past or future child abuse.

Keywords: abuse, children, confidentiality, ethics, Massachusetts, nurse attorney, reporter

Suggested Citation

Kearney, Kathleen M., The Nurse's Duty to Report Child Abuse Versus the Attorney's Duty of Confidentiality: The Nurse Attorney's Dilemma (January 25, 2007). Journal of Nursing Law, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1256366

Kathleen M. Kearney (Contact Author)

Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Nursing ( email )

Lubbock, TX
United States

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