Gardaí seeking information about a patient in the ED
- Brief details of the patient's name and address can be given by the doctor or nursing staff. But, details concerning the patient's medical condition can only be given by the doctor looking after the patient. The doctor should then ask the patient's permission before giving simple and brief details to the Gardaí. (Full garda statements should not be given at the time of treatment).
- In general the Gardaí should not interview a patient who is being assessed and treated in the department. They can have access to the patient provided the patient agrees and his condition is suitable to answer a few simple questions. This often means the Gardaí may need to wait until the patient has been adequately assessed and treated.
- If a patient refuses to allow the Gardaí details of her/his medical condition, you should respect his wishes and politely decline to give the Gardaí any details except agreeing that the patient is in the department. If the Gardaí persist in requesting information refer them to the Emergency Medicine Consultants or the Hospital manager.
The Gardaí are not allowed access to the Emergency Department register. They are not to be given details of patients to help general enquiries to find a criminal. All such requests should be refused and if refusal is not accepted referred to the Emergency Medicine Consultants or the Hospital Administrator.
Consent forms for release of information to the Gardaí are available in the department and all "assaulted" patients should be asked to sign a consent form (they are entitled to refuse and this fact should be recorded). Consent is necessary for written Garda statements.
In the case of an assault, accident or suspicious incident, please do not take samples for forensic alcohol estimation. The acquisition of body fluids (blood and/or urine samples for alcohol analysis, drugs assay and serological typing etc) is the responsibility of the attending garda surgeon (confirming letter).
These are not given direct to the Gardaí. The procedure is:-
- The Gardaí give the departmental secretary details of the person they wish a statement on. They are then told by the secretary that she will inform them when the statement is ready for collection from the hospital.
- As an SHO in ED you are a factual and not an expert witness.
- Only give details of your own clinical findings at the time you examined the patient. Do not give opinions and do not comment on the cause or outcome of the injuries. Keep your statement brief, using words a lay person can understand.
- After preliminary introduction, giving details of yourself and the patient in attendance, describe the site and size of the wounds, abrasions, bruises, etc. It is often easier to list the injuries 1, 2, 3, etc.
- It will not usually be necessary to comment on the patient's general condition. If the patient is shocked from blood loss following a head injury and has an altered level of consciousness a brief statement is useful. Do not give an opinion on drunkenness.
- Record the results of X-rays, then details of the treatment given, particularly the number of sutures used and details of fractures.
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After the statement has been made two copies should be taken: one for filing in the secretary's office and one for the doctor making the statement to keep in case he is required to attend court. The original is for the Gardaí.
All enquiries should be referred to the ED secretary
All enquiries should be referred to the Public Relations Officer
Do not examine the patient yourself. Ask the patient if she has or is going to report it to the Gardaí. If so, the Garda Surgeon should be called, alternatively discuss the problem with the duty Gynaecology Registrar. See rape section