Medical society welcomes mandatory stab, gunshot wound reporting

·3 min read

The New Brunswick Medical Society is applauding impending legislation which would mandate doctors report most incidents of knife and bullet wounds to law enforcement.

The province announced the it last Wednesday among a slew of other legislation.

In an email to CBC News, Coreen Enos, spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Public Safety said the legislation will "enable the police to take immediate steps to prevent further violence, injury or death."

"Often in the case of gunshot and stab wounds, a timely reaction by police is critical to preventing further violence, injury or death."

Dr. Jeff Steeves, president of the medical society, said mandating the reporting of wounds will take a lot of stress off of doctors.

"Sometimes physicians find themselves in sort of an ethical dilemma of balancing when a person may not want to report an injury, but that by reporting that it may provide a benefit to society or to that individual," said Steeves.

"Until now, the right to privacy, the physicians have to follow that, which can put them at odds with what might be in the better interest of the patients themselves if they don't give consent to release that information."

The legislation would mandate that hospitals must report knife and bullet wounds, except in the case of self-inflicted knife wounds where hospitals have some leeway.

Bullet wounds believed to be self-inflicted must be reported to police.

Privacy vs public safety

Steeves said the new legislation is just the latest in a long line of decisions made to balance privacy and public safety.

"Shaken baby and abuse of children, there's mandatory reporting," said Steeves.

"These are already times where there's an obligation and a right to report. So it's not that this is the first time this dilemma has been addressed."

Legislation has only been announced, not introduced, so specifics are slim, but Enos said the legislation will make clear how wounds "should be reported to police."

New Brunswick Medical Society
New Brunswick Medical Society

Many jurisdictions in North America already have laws mandating the reporting of knife and bullet wounds to police, with Steeves saying it exists in all 50 states having laws and Enos pointing out New Brunswick is one of only two provinces without legislation.

Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University, said the new legislation is just brining the province in line with the prevailing narrative.

"It does bring New Brunswick into line with other provinces who have had this in place for a number of years," said Boudreau.

"I'm sure that the province's police departments will welcome this legislation because sometimes they're not made aware of these incidents. And so this will help the police, or at least it could help the police, in some of their investigations into these crimes."

More to tackle

Boudreau said police associations have often called for this type of legislation in other jurisdictions.

But with a new throne speech and mandate, Boudreau said he was hoping for more movement on other issues around policing.

Jon Collicott/CBC
Jon Collicott/CBC

This includes revisiting the Police Act, how to deal with suspended officers, the lack of a serious response team and an independent body to investigate police involved shootings.

"These are longstanding issues … it's not as if they've just appeared," said Boudreau.

"The Chantel Moore tragedy has brought it back into the public light. But it doesn't mean that it hasn't happened before and hasn't been a long-standing issue, that successive governments have just either ignored or have had other priorities that they deem to be more important."