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Turning Away Rape Victims

September 28, 1987

As a practicing emergency room physician for the past 13 years, I appreciated your article which shed some light on the long standing problem.

Over this period, I have performed literally hundreds of "sexual assault exams" as a public service with essentially no reimbursement. These would best be categorized as the classic "lose/lose" situation, with the only potential benefit of doing the examinations being spending a day in court with loss of unreimbursed work time. Furthermore, the high-handed treatment of district attorneys and judges, who have shown little appreciation for our gratis public service, has had many E.R. physicians question why they should continue to perform this service.

The medical needs of sexual assault victims have and will continue to be met by the E.R. system. However, it should be made clear that the E.R. physician's role with the sexual assault victim is primarily that of evidence gathering, with emergency medical treatment of the victim usually minor. Nevertheless, I do not see the other players in this evidence gathering process, i.e. police, district attorneys, court appointed attorneys and judges volunteering their time spent as a similar public service.

The new regulations are just the "straw that broke the camel's back" for a longstanding totally inequitable situation that needs attention.

R.C. BISCAY, M.D.

Palos Verdes

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