People suffering some form of violence routinely seek health care. As first responders, clinicians are required to treat these patients equitably and promote their best interests. In clinical practice, guidelines can help or hinder clinicians’ capacities to fulfill these duties to patients who are victims of gun violence or rape, for example. Standards of care regarding sexual assault protocols and forensic examinations have important limitations that need clinical and ethical consideration. At the macro level, clinicians can work with organizations and governments to implement prevention strategies. The January 2018 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics will explore the nature and scope of clinicians’ obligations to respond to violence clinically and as a public health threat.
Violence is typically seen as a problem to be addressed by criminal justice enforcement – but are we seeing the issue the wrong way? This month on Ethics Talk, we discuss what it means to think about violence as an epidemic, and how this frame might transform the way our society responds to violence.