Neglect versus Physical Damage


By definition, forensic nursing is the application of nursing, when it overlaps with the legal system, but the fit is not always a smooth one.” Forensics is sometimes the collision between law and medicine.” Physicians might be reluctant to welcome law enforcement officials onto their turf and law enforcement can grow equally frustrated and impatient with hospital practices. The nurse is in an ideal position to bridge these worlds. Her physical assessment skills and knowledge of body systems and functioning enables her to identify what impact physical violence has on the human body. It could be disastrous if an individual was accused of neglect of an elderly patient based on initial findings. One such case was documented in JHN Magazine Spring 2003. An Oregon couple had been suspected of negligence after an elderly family member died at home and was discovered to have gross discolorations on one side of her body. The local police believed the markings were the symptoms of abuse, but the forensic nurse came to a different conclusion after reviewing the evidence, upon physical examination of the body and obtaining a health history. With the exception of the bedsore-like wounds, there were no signs of neglect: the woman’s hair was clean and her fingernails were neatly trimmed. A little research revealed that the dying woman was suffering from peripheral vascular disease, an arterial ailment that caused the suspicious looking discolorations. The peripheral vascular system is composed of arteries, capillaries, and veins. The tough and tensile arteries and their smaller branches, the arterioles are subjected to remarkable pressure generated from the myocardial contraction.

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