If a doctor, nurse or physician's assistant suspects a patient's been abused by their significant other, they must tell law enforcement. That's how it's been in Colorado for decades, but victim advocates have argued that requiring medical professionals to notify police has unintended consequences, like making victims afraid to go to the doctor. On Wednesday, the state law changes, removing "mandatory reporting" for medical professionals when the victim is at least 18.
HB17-1322 had bipartisan support.
State Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo), who co-sponsored the bill, says the change will give victims autonomy over their situation and time to figure out how to leave the relationship safely. Dr. Zach Wachtl, president-elect of Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, says doing away with mandatory reporting doesn't mean that the medical profession will ignore the issue.
Under the new law, medical professionals will still be required to alert law enforcement when there's a serious bodily injury, such as gunshot or stab wounds. If the victim chooses not to contact police, health care workers must refer that person to an advocate or counselor who can help the victim develop a safe plan. Doctors are also required to document the injuries as domestic-violence related in the patient's medical records.