What The Doctor Should Do

Domestic violence is an epidemic, but physicians say it's not their problem. The A.M.A. disagrees and wants to put them in an uncomfortable new role.

The woman arrived at the New Hampshire emergency room badly bruised, with several cracked ribs. "Someone did this to me. Someone did this to me," she muttered through her pain. The doctor on duty just nodded, then asked if the bandage felt comfortable. He made no attempt to elicit the ugly truth behind her whispers: she'd been battered by her husband.

Such scenes are appallingly common: one-third of all women who arrive at doctors' offices or hospitals seeking emergency treatment, and up to one- quarter of all those seeking prenatal care, are victims of domestic violence. After years of averting their...

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