Alarmed by a rise in child abuse cases, medical specialists, hospital and public health nurses, and social workers have joined forces to establish a new study body.
The group, named the Japanese Medical Society on Child Abuse and Neglect, or JaMSCAN for short, held a general meeting in Kitakyushu in August to mark its formal establishment in the face of preliminary reports that the number of cases in which the services of a counselor were sought at child guidance centers totaled 42,662 during fiscal 2008, which ended last March.
The number represented a six-fold rise from 10 years ago, indicating instances of child mistreatment have increased year after year.
About 60 people attended the meeting, training their sights on an improvement in the handling of child abuse. They also confirmed they would seek the participation and cooperation of such medical specialists as pediatricians, child psychiatrists, pediatric surgeons, neurosurgeons, obstetricians and gynecologists, radiologists, public health doctors, medical examiners and dentists.
The nonprofit organization Child Maltreatment Prevention Network has taken charge as secretariat of the research society. Experts said the number of notifications of child abuse to child consultation centers from medical institutions totaled about 1,700 in fiscal 2007, accounting for around 4% of the total.
They said that child abuse is overlooked in routine medical examinations and annual medical checkups at school. Those concerned should suspect a child is being mistreated if they find bruises in the child's abdominal area or if the child does not eat much at home.
Fujiko Yamada, director of the CMPN, who specializes in internal medicine, said physicians are strongly inclined to think there is no mistreatment of children when they begin examining them, adding that they are reluctant to harbor such suspicions.
She said one of the objectives of the research society is to get the technology of diagnosing child abuse into wide use and to raise the sensitivity of medical treatment.
The Japan Pediatric Society set up a project team on problems of child mistreatment in 2004 and its arguments that there are limits to involving pediatricians alone in the treatment of child abuse led to the establishment of the research society.
The society hopes to strengthen cooperation with doctors in various fields, including pediatrics, and strive to put together research and prevent child abuse.
Although a revised Organ Transplant Law allows organ donation from children, Yamada said, it is indispensable for doctors to examine the body of a child to determine there was no child abuse before passing judgment on brain death.
She said JaMSCAN is essential for nurturing a special team on child abuse.© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.