The MDU outlines how to exercise confidentiality regarding weapons injuries

What do you do when treating a patient with a knife or gunshot wound? The MDU has outlined how medical professionals should handle the situation

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has advised that doctors must exercise their duty of confidentiality when treating patients who have suffered injuries from weapons, such as guns and knives.

The advice has been published in the latest edition of the MDU journal, and outlines the ways in which doctors can develop a greater awareness of the issues surrounding weapon injuries, as well as their duty to inform police of injuries which may have been sustained in a criminal attack, and the duty of confidentiality.

The journal details an anonymised case in which a doctor was concerned about public safety after a patient arrived at A&E with a crossbow bolt lodged in his lower leg; the patient claimed that he had been shot accidentally while he and his friend were hunting rabbits.

Medico-legal advisor for MDU, Dr Ellie Mein, says:

“The GMC’s guidance – Confidentiality: Reporting gunshot and knife wounds (2017) – makes it clear that you should usually inform police if a patient has an injury ‘from an attack with a knife, blade or other sharp instrument’.

“Whilst it might not be necessary to report the incident if the injury caused by a knife or crossbow was accidental, the doctor should also consider whether information should be disclosed to the police, even without the patient’s permission to do so, in the public interest.

“For example, the police may need to be informed if a crossbow was being used in an area where it could post a risk of serious harm to others.”

The MDU advises only passing on relevant information if the situation does require it, and ensuring that the patient knows. If unsure whether the injury should be report, the MDU also recommends contacting the responsible consultant, the trust’s Caldicott guardian and/or the legal department or medical defence organisation for guidance.

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