Dutch doctors often misdiagnose child abuse: report

(Photo: Ranveig/Dodo / Wikimedia Commons)(Photo: Ranveig/Dodo / Wikimedia Commons)

A mandatory questionnaire Dutch doctors have to fill in to detect child abuse very often leads to false accusations, according to medical researcher Maartje Schouten. In more than 9 out of 10 cases in which the questionnaire indicates child abuse, the accusations are unfounded, she said to NOS. 

Since 2011 all emergency rooms and GP's have to fill out a questionnaire screening for child abuse when treating children. If one of the questions sets of an alarm, a further investigation is launched. The Netherlands is the only country in the world to have such a mandatory screening for child abuse.

Schouten investigated over 5 thousand such questionnaires from five Utrecht doctors. For her study, she kept track of how many negative and positive scores there were, and then how many of those children were in touch with child welfare or were reported to the child abuse hotline in the following 10 months. She found that in 92 out of 100 cases the suspicions were unfounded. And in 1 out of 100 cases, signs of child abuse were missed. 

The medical researcher calls for the questionnaire to be given a different form and for communication with the parents to be improved. "That you don't in conversation with the parents immediately turn to accusations, but that you together investigate what caused the injury of the child."

A spokesperson for the Healthcare Inspectorate told the Volkskrant that the questionnaires will remain n place, despite the results of this study. "The alternative is that we miss more abused children."