Van De Kamp, 060184 CAAGO, AGO 83-911

Docket Nº:AGO 83-911
Case Date:June 01, 1984
Court:California
 
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JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
JOHN T. MURPHY Deputy Attorney General
AGO 83-911
No. 83-911
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
June 1, 1984
         THE HONORABLE ROBERT H. PHILIBOSIAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, has requested an opinion on the following question:          Is a medical practitioner or a nonmedical practitioner, as defined in the Child Abuse Reporting Law, required by that law to make a report to a child protective agency when a child receives medical attention for a sexually transmitted disease, for birth control, for pregnancy or for abortion?          CONCLUSION          The obligation of a medical practitioner or a nonmedical practitioner, as defined in the Child Abuse Reporting Law, to make a report to a child protective agency arises when such person in his or her professional capacity has knowledge of or observes a child who he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse. A report is required when a child under age 14 receives medical attention for a sexually transmitted disease, for pregnancy or for abortion. A report is required when a child age 14 or older receives such attention if additional facts point to child abuse.          ANALYSIS          We are asked whether a medical practitioner or a nonmedical practitioner, as defined in the Child Abuse Reporting Law (Pen. Code, §§ 11165-11174), is required under that law to make a report to a child protective agency when a child receives medical attention for a sexually transmitted disease, for birth control, for pregnancy or for abortion.          A medical practitioner is "a physician and surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, resident, intern, podiatrist, chiropractor, licensed nurse, dental hygienist, or any other person who is currently licensed under Division 2 (commencing with Section 500) of the Business and Professions Code." (Pen. Code, § 11165, subd. (i).) The latter category covers a variety of healing arts professionals including optometrists and pharmacists. A nonmedical practitioner is "a state or county public health employee who treats a minor for venereal disease or any other condition; a coroner; a paramedic; a marriage, family, or child counselor; or a religious practitioner who diagnoses, examines, or treats children." (Pen. Code, § 11165, subd. (j).) Persons in these categories (and in the other categories listed in section 11165) who in their professional capacities or within the scopes of their employments have knowledge of or observe a child who they know or reasonably suspect has been the victim of child abuse must report the known or suspected instance to a child protective agency. (Pen. Code, § 11166, subd. (a).) A child protective agency is "a police or sheriff's department, a county probation department, or a county welfare department." (Pen. Code, § 11165, subd. (k).)          Child abuse has several definitions in the reporting law. Child abuse is a "physical injury which is inflicted by other than accidental means on a child by another person"; child abuse is a "sexual assault of a child or any act or omission proscribed by [Penal Code] Section 273a (willful cruelty and unjustifiable punishment of a child) or [Penal Code] Section 273d (corporal punishment or injury)"; child abuse is "neglect of a child or abuse in out-of-home care, as defined in this article." (Pen. Code, § 11165, subd. (g).) A report of child abuse may be made when "mental suffering has been inflicted on a child or his or her emotional well-being is endangered." (Pen. Code, § 11166, subd. (b).)          Sexual assault is further defined as follows (Pen. Code, § 11165, subd. (b)):
"'Sexual assault' means conduct in violation of the following sections of the Penal Code: Sections 261 (rape), 264.1 (rape in concert), 285 (incest), 286 (sodomy), subdivisions (a) and (b) of Section 288 (lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under 14 years of age), and Sections 288a (oral copulation), 289 (penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object), and 647a (child molestation)."
         Neglect has several definitions in the reporting law (Pen. Code, § 11165, subd. (c)):
"'Neglect' means the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the
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