Sexual Abuse of the Mentally Retarded Patient: Medical and Legal Analysis for the Primary Care Physician



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The primary care physician has a vital role in documenting and preventing sexual abuse among the mentally retarded populations in our community. Since the current national trend is to integrate citizens with mental retardation into the community away from institutionalized care, it is essential that all physicians have a basic understanding of the unique medical and legal ramifications of their clinical diagnoses. As the legal arena is currently revising laws concerning rights of sexual consent among the mentally retarded, it is essential that determinations of mental competency follow national standards in order to delineate clearly any instance of sexual abuse. Clinical documentation of sexual abuse and sexually transmitted disease is an important part of a routine examination since many such individuals are indeed sexually active. Legal codes adjudicating sexual abuse cases of the mentally retarded often offer scant protection and vague terminology. Thus, medical documentation and physician competency rulings form a solid foundation for future work toward legal recourse for the abused.

Primary Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2001;3(3):126-135