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The Pediatric Forum |

Addressing the Fundamental Methods—Reply

Suzanne P. Starling, MD; Andrew P. Sirotnak, MD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(2):195-197. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.2.195-b.
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We disagree with Dr Squier that the premise of the article was undermined by failing to analyze the investigative techniques in each case. The purpose of this research was not to analyze, critique, or examine law enforcement procedures or techniques of interviewing criminal suspects but to analyze what statements were made. The variability, experience, and training of law officers regarding their ability to elicit confessions is indeed beyond the scope of the article. We as medical professionals have been taking histories from patients for centuries, asking “What happened?” or “How have you been hurt or injured?” Our interview skills as medical professionals have changed with time as have law enforcement interview techniques. We have no reason to believe that police investigators are using unsound techniques or are in any way compromising or influencing the admissions of the perpetrators they are interviewing. In fact, many investigative interviews are recorded in some way and subject to the strict peer review of both the police departments and the court systems and thus may be more forensically sound than most physician interviews. Our role as physicians is to report injuries to agencies for investigation as required by law. The histories we take become part of investigations of criminal acts of child abuse, and like it or not, authorities rely on medical professionals to interpret medical information. Finally, we as pediatricians also can learn important information from investigators’ interviews of suspects and the complex jurisprudence system. If we do not interact and rely on each other, we do a disservice to abused children and children at risk.

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