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When the misdiagnosis is child abuse

from The Atlantic

Child abuse is a pervasive and complex problem: Few children or abusers report harm themselves, so it’s up to other authorities, such as medical personnel and teachers, or bystanders, such as neighbors, to report suspected abuse. Some 3.5 million children in America were reported as being suspected victims of child abuse in 2018, the most recent year for which data are available; about 680,000 were ultimately determined by authorities to have been abused or neglected. When suspected abuse has a medical component, like an injury or a bruise, child-abuse pediatricians step in to examine injuries, rule out causes other than abuse, such as a disease, and consider the family’s explanations. A review of dozens of cases, including thousands of pages of medical records, child-welfare agencies’ records, and testimony, along with court decisions, contracts, and emails from child-abuse pediatricians, shows that these doctors can have near-unilateral power in labeling abuse—even though their conclusions are sometimes at odds with the opinions of specialists like orthopedists and hematologists. more


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