and Lonny J. Rosen
Elder abuse is an unfortunate and undiscussed phenomenon in our society, yet it is one that many physicians will encounter in the treatment of their elderly patients. Although there is little agreement on the definition of elder abuse, it can generally be defined as 'any act of commission or omission that results in harm to an elderly person.'1 The types of harm suffered by elderly patients generally include physical, psychological, and financial abuse as well as neglect. Various studies conducted throughout North America have reported the incidence of elder abuse to be anywhere from 1%-10%. Since elder abuse is such a prevalent problem, it is critical for physicians to be aware of their statutory and professional reporting obligations.
Statutory Reporting Obligation
At present, there is no federal statutory obligation on the part of physicians across Canada to report elder abuse. Such obligations are set by provincial governments, and each of the provinces of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have enacted some type of adult protection legislation. These laws impose on all persons the obligation to report a situation where a person is suffering from abuse or is otherwise in need of protection. The legislation in these provinces includes not only abuse of the elderly, but also usually covers all adults over the age of 16 or 18 years, who are in need of protection.