Law enforcement interviews of hospital patients are a common but underrecognized phenomenon in US medicine. Daily in emergency departments and inpatient trauma services, and sporadically in other departments, police officers request permission to interview patients who may have experienced, witnessed, or perpetrated crimes ranging from motor vehicle crashes to homicides. These interviews are often time sensitive, and how they are conducted may have clinical consequences, alter legal outcomes for patients and physicians, and affect public safety. Yet law enforcement access to patients is not explicitly regulated by federal or state law, relevant professional guidelines are so limited as to be negligible, and medical literature on the subject is minimal. Decision making by both clinicians and police is consequently unstructured, ad hoc, and potentially susceptible to adverse outcomes that might be preventable with appropriate guidance.
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