Domestic violence powers disputed
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says doctors could do more harm than good by interfering in domestic violence cases.
The NSW Government is allowing doctors to report patients they suspect are victims of domestic violence to welfare services with or without the patient's consent.
The rules allow doctors to connect victims to services run by non-Government organisations.
But AMA NSW vice-president Kean-Seng Lim says there are some concerns.
“It's already a very difficult situation for a victim of domestic violence, and we would want to make sure we are not disempowering someone or making the situation more difficult by disclosing something without the victim's consent,” Dr Lim told the ABC.
NSW Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward, said many victims cannot speak out.
“For victims who don't want to report to the police, we've never had a way of being able to reach out and provide support,” she said.
“Now with doctors being able to contact the Local Coordination Point (LCP) we feel that we will be able to help those many, many victims who will not report to the police.”
The LCP connects victims with services including welfare, counselling and housing.
Ms Goward said the doctor could be a first point of call for many victims of domestic violence.
Dr Lim said some patients may not visit the doctor if they think their privacy will be breached.
“Often the sufferer of domestic violence is going to be in the best position to make a judgment as to their own safety,” he said.
“There could be safety risks associated with disclosing information without the victim's consent.”