Décision de justice

Reporting abuse or neglect: disciplinary action cannot be taken against a doctor who has reported concerns, as long as these concerns are honestly held and action is taken through the appropriate channels.

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The Conseil d’État has specified that, as set out in law, a doctor cannot be prosecuted by a disciplinary tribunal for reporting child abuse or neglect, when they have acted in compliance with the law and in good faith. In today’s ruling, the Conseil d’État took the view that a doctor who had reported a mother's behaviour after an appointment with her and her daughter, had acted with the aim of protecting the child. As a result, the doctor could not face disciplinary action in this regard.

In 2017, a doctor in a mental health centre for children and young people alerted the local CRIP (Cellule départementale de recueil, de traitement et d’évaluation des informations préoccupantes [unit for gathering, processing and assessing concerns]) about a child suspected of suffering psychological abuse by its mother. The unit had taken measures to protect this nine-year-old following initial concerns raised a few months earlier by other healthcare professionals. Following the doctor's report, a family judge placed the child in care.

The child’s mother decided to lodge a complaint with the local Medical Council’s disciplinary board against the doctor who had reported his concerns. The disciplinary board rejected her claim in 2019 and this decision was confirmed following an appeal to the National Medical Council’s disciplinary board in 2020. The child’s mother then appealed to the Conseil d’État.

In accordance with Article 226-14 of the French Penal Code, the Conseil d’État ruled that when a doctor, in the performance of their duties, acquires knowledge that gives them reason to believe a child is subject to physical, sexual or psychological abuse, and reports these facts and evidence to the State Prosecutor or a CRIP, the doctor cannot be subject to disciplinary proceedings unless they are found to have acted in bad faith. Legislation, and in particular the law of 5 November 2015 that aims to clarify the process for healthcare professionals reporting abuse, is intended to protect such professionals from disciplinary (or civil or criminal) action for duly reporting concerns.

In this particular case, the Conseil d’État noted that the Appeal Court believed the doctor had made a report to the relevant CRIP after they had gathered evidence during an appointment with the child and its mother, and that he had acted in good faith to protect the child. Today, therefore, it upheld the National Medical Council’s disciplinary board’s decision that no disciplinary action could be taken against the practitioner for reporting these concerns.

Read the decision n°448015