Irish Medical Organisation

IMO Presentation to Joint Committee on Health and Children: Children First Bill - June 2012

On June 19th Dr Paul McKeown – IMO President, Dr Ray Walley Chair - IMO GP Committe, Dr Brett Lynam – Public Health Committee and IMO Honorary Secretary and Ms Vanessa Hetherington – Senior Policy Executive presented IMO concerns with the Children First Scheme and Heads of Bill to the Joint Committee on Health and Children.  
Doctors, particularly General Practitioners and Community Health Doctors, are at the frontline in dealing with instances and the threat of child abuse and to Doctors the protection of children is of paramount importance. Like other frontline professionals, doctors have a duty to protect children and to report suspected incidences of child abuse. The Medical Council Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behaviour requires doctors to be familiar with Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and to report any concerns about alleged or suspected sexual, physical, emotional abuse or neglect of children to the appropriate authorities. The Children First Bill will place this duty on a statutory footing.
While mandatory reporting is based upon the highest possible motives, in jurisdictions where mandatory reporting has been introduced, issues with the definition and diagnosis of child abuse have inflated the numbers of false reports adding unnecessary stress and damage to the affected families.  At the same time mandatory reporting is unlikely to be effective without an adequately resourced public health and social care infrastructure to assess and protect children post reporting. The IMO has grave concerns that unless issues of diagnosis and resources are addressed, the unintended consequences of mandatory reporting could divert needed resources from those children at the greatest risk of abuse.
Additionally, the issue of reporting consensual sex among minors requires clarification.

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