How to report abuse of a Patient, child, elder or disabled person in Massachusetts

Pursuant to the Board’s regulations at 244 CMR 9.03(6) : Compliance with Laws and Regulations Related to Nursing all nurses must comply with M.G.L. c. 112, §§ 74 through 81C, as well as with any other laws and regulations related to licensure and practice.

Nurses are mandated reporters of witnessed or suspected abuse. Board regulations define abuse as any impermissible or unjustifiable contact or communication with a patient which in any way harms or intimidates, or is likely to harm or intimidate, a patient. Abuse may be verbal or non-verbal, and may cause physical, sexual, mental, or emotional harm [ref: 244 CMR 9.02].

In addition to reporting to the Department of Public Health as described below, all nurses who directly observe another nurse engaged in the abuse of a patient must report that nurse to the Board [ref: 244 CMR 9.03(26)]. The duty to report to the Board is in addition to any other reporting requirement that a nurse may have.

Contact the Board at 1-800-414-0168 or 617-973-0900 for assistance in reporting.

See also: Guideline for Compliance with the Standard of Conduct at 244 CMR 9.03(26) - Governing a Nurse's Duty to Report to the Board of Registration in Nursing for other situations which nurses must report to the Board.

Several other Massachusetts laws have specific requirements for nurses to report suspected Patient Abuse, Child Abuse, Elder Abuse, and Abuse of a Disabled Person to their respective divisions in State Government. The requirements extend beyond working hours and beyond the employment setting. Review the conduct that would constitute abuse and the reporting requirements for each below.

Patient Abuse 

M.G.L. c. 111, § 72G requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to suspect patient abuse, neglect, mistreatment and/or misappropriation of patient/resident property must report the situation. Abuse includes the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain, or mental anguish, or assault and battery. Verbal or mental abuse requires a knowing and willful act directed at a specific patient or resident. [ref: 105 CMR 155.003]

How to Report Violations of M.G.L. c. 111 § 72G

A nurse who suspects abuse, neglect, mistreatment and/or misappropriation must immediately make an oral report to his or her supervisor or employer. Upon receiving such report, the supervisor or employer must immediately notify the Department of Public Health (DPH) by oral communication, electronically transmitted report or facsimile. Oral reports must be followed by a written report within 48 hours to DPH. [ref: 105 CMR 155.000]

All oral reports must be made to telephone number 1-800-462-5540. All written reports must be addressed to: Complaint Specialist, Division of Health Care Quality, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 10 West Street, Boston, MA 02111, or by Fax at 617-753-8165. Any such person required to make such oral and written reports who fails to do so shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000.

Additional information and forms for specific healthcare settings in which the abuse is suspected can be found at:

http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/provider/reporting-to-state/abuse-neglect/health-care-facilities/forms-and-web-based-reporting.html

In addition to reporting to the Department of Public Health as described above, all nurses who directly observe another nurse engaged in the abuse of a patient must report that nurse to the Board [ref: 244 CMR 9.03(26)]. Contact the Board at 1-800-414-0168 or 617-973-0900 for assistance in reporting.

Any mandated reporter who has reasonable cause to believe that a patient or resident may have been abused, neglected or mistreated or had property misappropriated, and refuses or fails to report will be reported to the Attorney General and the appropriate registration board. Such individual may be subject to disciplinary actions by such registration board and to a fine of up to $1,000.

Child Abuse 

M.G.L. c. 119 § 51A requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from: (i) abuse inflicted which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, including sexual abuse; (ii) neglect, including malnutrition; (iii) physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth; or (iv) being a sexually exploited child; or (v) being a human trafficking victim must immediately communicate with the Department of Children & Families (DCF) orally and, within 48 hours, submit a written report to DCF detailing the suspected abuse or neglect.

How to Report Violations of M.G.L. c. 119 § 51A

All reports of suspected child abuse and/or neglect require immediate reporting the DCF Area Office Screening Unit serving the child’s residence. A directory of area offices can be found at: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dcf/can-mandated-reporters-guide.pdf Offices are staffed between 9 am and 5 pm weekdays. To make a report at any other time, including after 5 pm and on weekends and holidays, call the Child-At-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200.

Additional information and the form for filing the written report can be obtained from the local DCF Area Office or from the DCF website at: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dcf/child-abuse-neglect/reporting-abuse.html

Any mandated reporter who fails to make required oral and written reports shall be punished by a fine of up to $1,000. Any mandated reporter who willfully fails to report child abuse and/or neglect that resulted in serious bodily injury or death shall be punished by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 2½ years in jail, and be reported to the person’s professional licensing authority. Whoever knowingly and willfully files a frivolous report shall be punished by: (i) a fine of not more than $2,000 for the first offense; (ii) imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 6 months and a fine of not more than $2,000 for the second offense; and (iii) imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 21/2 years and a fine of not more than $2,000 for the third and subsequent offenses.

Elder Abuse 

M.G.L. c. 19A §15 requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to believe that an elderly person is suffering from or has died as a result of abuse to immediately make an oral report and submit a written report within forty-eight hours. Elder abuse is defined as an act or omission which results in serious physical or emotional injury to an elderly person or financial exploitation of an elderly person; or the failure, inability or resistance of an elderly person to provide for himself or herself one or more of the necessities essential for physical and emotional well-being without which the elderly person would be unable to safely remain in the community. Forms of abuse include physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, financial exploitation, and self-neglect. However, no person is considered to be abused or neglected for the sole reason that such person is being furnished or relies upon treatment in accordance with the tenets and teachings of a church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof.

How to Report Violations of M.G.L. c. 19A §15

All reports of elder abuse, including self-neglect, must be made immediately to the appropriate designated Protective Services (PS) agency or the statewide Elder Abuse Hotline (1-800-922-2275), which operates on a seven days a week, 24 hours a day basis. Typically, elder abuse reports are made to PS agencies during normal business hours and to the Hotline during after-hours periods, on weekends and holidays. Additional information, including acts that constitute elder abuse, and reporting forms can be found at: http://www.mass.gov/elders/service-orgs-advocates/protective-services-program.html

Mandated reporters who fail to make elder abuse reports when appropriate are subject to a fine up to $1,000. In addition, the law provides mandated reporters with immunity from any civil or criminal liability that otherwise could result from making a report, provided the reporter did not commit the abuse.

Abuse of a Disabled Person 

M.G.L. c. 19C, § 10 requires that nurses who have reasonable cause to believe that a disabled person is abused must report the situation to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC). Abuse of a disabled person includes acts of physical, sexual, emotional, verbal abuse and omission by a caregiver of a person with a physical disability between the ages of 18 and 59. Abuse of a disabled person under age 18 must be reported as child abuse and if older than 59 as elder abuse (see above). In addition to reporting suspected abuse and neglect, mandated reporters are also required to report to the DPPC all cases in which an individual with a disability has died, regardless of whether or not abuse or neglect is suspected.

How to Report Violations of M.G.L. c. 19C §10

Nurses who suspect abuse must make an oral report to the DPPC at 1-800-426-9009 which operates on a seven days a week, 24 hours a day basis. The oral report must be followed by a written report within 48 hours sent to: Intake Unit, DPPC, 300 Granite Street, Suite 404, Braintree MA 02184 or by Fax at 617-727-6469. Any person required by this section to make oral and written reports, who fails to do so, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars

Additional information and forms can be obtained at: http://www.mass.gov/dppc/abuse-report/

Any mandated reporter who fails to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect of person with a disability will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

Information updated 5/28/14

 


This information is provided by the Division of Health Professions Licensure within the Department of Public Health.