• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    Abuse, the NFL, and Due Process

    Recently, you can't go anywhere, read or watch anything, and not hear about the National Football League and its abuse scandal. Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancé. Greg Hardy beating up a woman. Adrian Peterson accused of child abuse by disciplining with a switch.

    Somehow, this has turned into a societal referendum on discipline - spanking, specifically - and safety nets for abused partners.

    This has made the American people into experts on abuse lately. The cynic in me says "This is wonderful," because, in my four years of taking care of abused children that came to the hospital, we were ALWAYS woefully understaffed with people that could properly tell abuse from non-abuse, and do a good forensic exam, or forensic interview.

    The civic organizations we worked with for psychiatric care for patients and parents, the police and state who prosecuted perpetrators, were always horribly underfunded.

    I see roughly one patient per week in the ICU with serious injury (or death) from physical abuse. But now, we have almost an entire nation who can accurately perform a forensic interview and examination via the internet. No more CPS write-ups, forensic exams, brain death exams, worrying about serum sodiums or intracranial pressures, getting ophthalmology to come in late at night, etc., etc.

    The reality is, we have no increase in experts, on another example of America's penchant for self-righteous indignation without education. I am all for the discussion, when people take the time to educate on the situation, American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, etc.

    But most people don't.

    And as a doctor who sees this at least once a week, we must do our job to prove that what we see came from actions alleged. If we jump to conclusions, we do the child a disservice. I've seen more than one child come in with bruises consistent with abuse only to find underlying bleeding issues no readily apparent on a routine CBC.

    So if people in positions to report or make decisions are going to highlight this, let them truly become educated too. It's better for the child and future children.

    Secondly, I have serious concerns about our society over the last 1-2 weeks. "Innocent until proven guilty," must apply in ALL scenarios in this country, or we end up in the same situation the NFL is currently in - creating arbitrary punishments for crimes not properly vetted.

    How many people have been exonerated from death row sentences by DNA evidence? Or new evidence? Or findings of police misconduct?

    As much as we may feel certain that Ray Rice knocked out his wife, or Adrian Peterson abused his child, we must let the system play like it's supposed to.

    Holding second grand juries is scary - because it's almost double jeopardy that our constitution forbids. If you are a strict constitutionalist, you should definitely oppose Adrian Peterson being tried again. Can we suspend or fire everyone in America when a crime is alleged? There are many spurious allegations out there, or ones done in good faith that still end up being wrong.

    No, as much as it might hurt us to be patient, in a case like this we MUST be patient and not crucify the alleged perpetrator until the system runs its course so that the system is infallible, and justice without caveat can be served for the child and safeguarded for the next child. Otherwise, we're all just a modern mob with torches storming to Frankenstein's castle.

    Finally, as an organization, the NFL has made a huge mistake with Ray Rice. In his case, the system has played out, he was convicted and given a sentence for a first time offender. Then, the NFL made it's suspension. Yes, it was woefully too lenient (IMHO), but when the video came out, you can't, as an organization, go back and produce arbitrary punishment again. That's where Goodell has major problems. he's just made his justice system COMPLETELY arbitrary. No, the NFL must stick with the punishment it doled, take egg on the face for doing it wrong, and set something correct up for the future.

    My concern is not the child defended - yes! let's do that. CPS can take Peterson's child out of the home. We have a court system. Heck, it's here in Houston that it's happening. BUT, if America "educates" itself without true knowledge, then we are worse off than before. I'm glad people are talking, but the media needs to talk correctly. And due process must be observed or the next child isn't protected.

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