This House Believes That Doctors Should Be Obligated to Report Suspected Cases of Domestic Abuse


First of all, defining domestic abuse. You can read more here.

Any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, co-habiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere.

So, by that definition, domestic abuse is hugely regrettable issue which is still happening in our society, for its violation over someone in both physical and mental well-being. It is now addressed as a crime and the victim can be found in any family, be it in heterosexual or homosexual relationship, and not exclusive on one specific gender or even age, including children.

Pay very close and proper attention to this part: This House Believes That Doctors SHOULD BE OBLIGATED

That is the biggest cause of discourse (pun intended) in this motion, as the parameters introduced to the debate should be based on the legal and/or moral values before introducing another obligation to the doctors. For reference, consult the Hippocratic Oath (ALL of the doctors in this world abide and adhere to that) — relevant? Applicable? Ethical? Or not?

Other expected clashes include:

  1. whether or not this motion will decrease domestic abuse cases.
  2. the degree of “suspicion”, under which threshold would be considered as “reportable” to these doctors.
  3. or even their capability to detect! do they have them?
  4. the likelihood of trust towards doctors decreasing (or not).
  5. whether or not it’s ethical to add more to the burdens and responsibilities a doctor carries.

Well, those are the prominent and most expected ones, but for now, we’ll proceed to the arguments.

Team Affirmative

Today, we learn that the number of domestic violence is still high. In the worst scenario, it could even lead to death or severe mental depression. This is mainly because of how certain actors are still bounded with the concept of solving problem with anger or rage, which is irrational, for you may not be aware of the consequences of your action. At this stage, we can safely concur that violence is not something that we are proud of. In fact, some of us are embarassed when domestic violence is happening in our life, which later convince us to not tell that it happened. Embarassed because it is not expected in our society. It is worse when it happened to women in patriarchal culture.

  1. Only doctors have the exclusive information to take part in combatting domestic abuse.

Now, when a domestic abuse happened, a victim with physical damage or bruises around his/her body would show up for a medical treatment. Before proceeding to the treatment, there will be interaction  between the doctor and the patient, such as the talk a.k.a. consultation session before/after the checkup. During this interaction, doctors who are equipped with the patient’s medical records would be able to identify what exactly is happening on this patient. The medical records will play an important role to spot the ongoing pattern. For instance, a doctor may find the victim to suffer from similar injuries or similar spots. Although there is a high tendency for the patient to lie, an information generated from medical records will eventually spill the truth. Not to mention the possibility of the patient to actually tell the abuse they are experiencing during the heart-to-heart consultation (with tears). Therefore, doctors are one of the prominent stakeholder to help the victims.

Aside from being a doctor, a doctor is also considered to be a part of society. The domestic abuse trend has to be ended soon, for it could fall on anyone, including you (yes, you, dear reader). Therefore, a doctor as an agent that have the more-classified information than the victim’s relatives, the privilege of information should be exercised to mitigate further domestic abuse cases. By doctors taking part in the mitigation process, it will break the normalization of domestic abuse. The fact that people remain silent over this issue is a mean of approving the action. Hence, doctors should start participating.

By the way, consider this as a preventive effort. Doctors’ report will not put themselves in trouble just in case it raised a false alarm. It will not affect their career, for what they were doing is only to strengthen the community from domestic abuse culture. It is similar with cases when you suspect someone is about to do crime, and you report him/her first, just in case the crime happens. Another thing, doctors’ duty is to cure people, and basically to prevent the source of pain. Thus, with doctors help to report, it is in line with their job interest/mission.

  1. To break the patriarchal normalization of domestic violence.

Women in patriarchal community believe that it is not a big issue when they deal with abuse in their relationship/marriage. It is supported by the mutual experiences of their mother/sister or any other women in their surroundings. Long-story-short, domestic abuse is normalized, ever since the women were kids. In addition, women have to embrace that they have to depend on men to live, which has erased their rationality to address the issue with the right action. General patriarchal society also perceive domestic violence as something common for men to channel their anger toward their spouses’ fault. Moreover, the fact that patriarchal belief is mostly associated with religious value, has made them to be reticent to disclose all the abuses (read:crimes).

Basically, the reason for women to not report the abuse by themselves is fear. The fear of having themselves right, while society think they are not. The fear of how society will just simply dismiss and forget about them. And lastly, the fear of losing the case in court. Because in order to win, the victims need people who are willing to testify as witnesses for them, which is tough, particularly in the patriarchal environment. Those fears have successfully silenced the victims. It is as if the crime is systemmatically well organized. We all know how bad it is when something that is already considered to be a crime is still happening to people, right?

  1. To also save children.

The realm of domestic violence is not limited to only between adults, but also includes children. Children have more risks in their mental health growth, especially childhood trauma, that could affect their lives forever. At first, it is bad enough for children to have witness a violence. Then, when the experience escalated from watching to experiencing, the impact is worse. For instance, the absence of love from parents, would contribute to nurture the child to be hostile, unable to express love, etc. This issue might cause inability for the children to interact in a heterogeneous community in the future. What is worse is when the children have grown to be adults and eventually repeat the violence that they once endured to their children, continuing the cycle of violence across generations.

It is obvious enough how children are important for our future, right?

Team Opposition

Well, now let’s see how as Opposition could argue in this motion. Let’s agree on some things brought by Affirmative team. Yeah, domestic abuse is indeed a serious case and we agree that any kinds of domestic abuse should be reported so that the abusers could be legally processed under the Criminal Justice System. But what is wrong is when doctors are burdened to always report the case, especially when it is not under the consent of the victim. The chance for the victim to settle the case is still plausible with the way fo forgiving/without law approach. Though doctors will have the capacity to report, does not necessarily mean that doctors know what is the best for the victim. In simple, doctors’ report should be optional and conditional, not obligated.

  1. Doctors do not know what is best for the victims.

It is naive to think that everyone could just step into someone’s life and take a decision for them. In this case, doctors do not know what exactly is going on in the household. Though there is a domestic abuse, does not necessarily require doctors help. For sure, doctors could help to treat the victims well. Doctors should also honor the right of the victim, which is the consent to whether report it or not. Doctors do not live the consequences of their action, therefore doctors should not be involded in the decision making. Let the victims decide with their own rationality.

In patriarchal society where women have accepted their fate to be inferior toward men, doctors’ initiative would be futile. Though violence is just wrong, but the fact that it is common and accepted in society has given us enough reason to not change the way things are. Otherwise, it will only jeopardize the status quo. When a domestic abuse is reported without the victim’s consent, the possibility of the undesired outcome is very likely to happen. For example, the chance of losing a spouse or ends up in divorce or being shamed by the nearby society. The further impact of the aftermath that beyond their expectations is not something that the patients agreed with. Some of the victims, will definitely agree and approve with the doctors, while some of those who do not approve the doctors’ action are being harmed. The victims may have their own way in trying to resolve the problem without intervention. For example, by simply forgiving the abuse and choose to stay in the relationship. Some decisions though bitter, are better. Because you have to consider other stakeholders involved in your decision making. In this case, take an example on the children. A child is best to grow with the parents live around the child. Unfortunately, such ideal situation will not be achieved when the court decided to put the abuser in jail. That’s one example.

The spotlight of the Opposition’s case would be on those who do not agree with doctors’ action. Harm of violating patient’s choice: Patients lose their trust toward doctors. New stigma on doctors as life ruiner will be established, especially by patients that lose their voice in doctors’ intervention. That way, when the violence happened, victims will be demotivated to visit doctors for medical treatment. In fact, the tendency to switch to alternative medicine or not treating it all, is very possibly to happen. When that happened, government has created a new problem in distributing the medical care.

  1. The proposal is too demanding for doctors.

Even though doctors are one of the external and rational actor, doctors who formerly have been carrying the responsibility to ensure the well being of the patient, should not be put on another responsibility. The humanity call is seriously consuming their attention, for there could be biases or evil intentions or even conspiracy inside the story. Extra focus besides of their professional and family responsibility is required. You know, doctors are also humans. At first, they are to be blamed when some surgeries are failed to save lives. Now, they have to be vulnerable toward another blames for the mistakes that are not theirs. This another-humanity action should not be carried by doctors. Besides, doctors should not take over the role of law enforcers.

  1. Counter proposal: Mitigating the domestic abuse that happened in society.

First of all, both women and men have to realize the value of their life, and that they should oppose any cruel actions that are done to them. They have to be brave to fight against violence. So that, when it comes to them, they do not need anyone to stand up for them. They shall not need doctors to resolve it for them. They have to be independent. Second of all, we should educate the victims more that violence is never to be justified. And that we should pay attention not to only ourselves, but to our surrounding when violence is happening, for violence is the mutual enemy of humanity.

Third of all, empowering society. Body or movement such as CAADA (Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse) in UK  have provided support system in facing the domestic abuse situation. By involving in a specific movement that aims to assist the victims of domestic violence, it will produce a better and more sustainable outcome. For now, you are able to protect yourself without having to need the help of external agents that care or know nothing about you. Series of action, such as protection will also be provided by the community, compared to doctors who may already have their life threatened. Hence, the victims should have the power to take the decision by themselves without having to fear of society’s stigma or even the abuser’s reaction.