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Clinical factors affecting physicians' management decisions in cases of female partner abuse

Ferris LE, Norton P, Dunn EV, Gort EH. Fam Med. 1999; 31(6):415-25.


Background and Objectives: This study determined which clinical factors influence Canadian primary care physicians' management decisions in cases of female partner abuse.

Methods: We used a cross-sectional survey design and randomly sampled (n = 2,014) English-speaking Canadian physicians with a primary interest in family or general practice who were practicing in any of the 12 provinces and territories in Canada and who were active in private practice and registered to prescribe. Respondents completed a questionnaire that required them to score management decision plans in response to case scenarios illustrating typical office-based situations that might involve domestic violence.

Results: The response rate was 50.7% (n = 1,022). Using forward stepwise regression analysis, the strongest predictor of whether a physician endorsed a management plan in response to violence was whether the woman acknowledged or revealed the abuse. Male physicians were more likely than females to endorse talking with the suspected abuser if he was known to them, regardless of the quality of this patient-physician relationship with the abuser.

Conclusions: Decisions about whether to deal with the abuse or the selection of a management plan are not dependent on the severity of the physical abuse and the emotional consequences. Whether a woman acknowledges or reveals the abuse, as well as whether both the male and female patients are in the physician's practice, are predictive of whether a physician's response to a case scenario involves dealing with spousal abuse and how he/she will address it.

Keywords: Domestic violence Primary care/clinical practice

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