Doctors and other medical professionals should be allowed to treat spouses injured by violent and non-medical violence, including rape, domestic violence and homicide, the Canadian Medical Association said Tuesday in a position paper.
The AMA says its position paper was drafted after consulting with the Canadian government and the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.
“In the current climate, and in light of the recent mass killings in Europe, this is a very important and timely position paper,” AMA President Dr. Robert Prentice said in a statement.
The paper comes as Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is working to create an all-party committee to review how to respond to Canada’s growing epidemic of domestic violence.
The first cabinet meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began has been delayed until April, when a new government will be sworn in.
In its position papers, the AMA said it wants the government to create a panel to work with police and other health professionals to help identify people at risk of contracting the virus and how to help protect them from violence.
The AMA says doctors should be able to perform physical and mental examinations on victims of domestic abuse, as well as determine whether they need medical treatment.
The organization said doctors should also be able provide mental health and psychological support, including counselling, if they believe that they are at risk for a domestic violence incident.
The position papers also say doctors should inform family members of a suspected domestic violence or sexual assault if the victim or any of the family members is hospitalized or has to be taken to a hospital emergency room.
Doctors should be trained in recognizing signs of a violent attack, including signs of trauma, physical bruising or cuts, or signs of the victim’s breathing being restricted or labored.
According to the AMA, “Doctors should have an understanding of what is being observed when patients are in a violent state, and should be familiar with appropriate techniques and protocols for dealing with such injuries, including medical supervision.”
“It is important that doctors recognize that violence can be a factor in domestic violence,” AMA vice-president and chief medical officer Dr. Jeffrey LeBlanc said in the statement.
“But when a patient is injured, they should not have to wait until the police are called, and then they should have access to appropriate health care services, as a physician should.”
Canada has experienced a spike in domestic and sexual violence cases in recent months.
On Jan. 1, the RCMP arrested two men in Vancouver for allegedly beating their pregnant partner and threatening to kill her.
On Dec. 21, a 19-year-old woman was shot dead in Toronto by a man who allegedly assaulted her at knifepoint.
A man and woman were charged in May with murder and attempted murder in connection with the deaths of a 19 and a 19 year-old.
On Monday, police in London, Ont., arrested two women accused of stabbing their boyfriend to death after the boyfriend was found stabbed to death.