Are Washington state's mandated reporting requirements triggered if a doctor discovers that their adult patient had been abused in the past? What if there are no longer any 'protected populations' at risk (no children, no vulnerable adults/elderly,...)? What if the patient talks exclusively in hypothetical terms?

1 Answer 1


RCW Chapter 26.44 covers abuse of children, and RCW 26.44.030 1(a) states the duty to report: the reporter "has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect" – the law doesn't say "a child is currently suffering abuse", it say "has suffered". But then: subsection (2) says:

The reporting requirement of subsection (1) of this section does not apply to the discovery of abuse or neglect that occurred during childhood if it is discovered after the child has become an adult. However, if there is reasonable cause to believe other children are or may be at risk of abuse or neglect by the accused, the reporting requirement of subsection (1) of this section does apply.

So, no, unless it is reasonable to believe that the abuse is ongoing, in which case, yes. It's not really possible to judge the status of a "hypothetical", because some hypotheticals are hypotheticals, and others are real, so it would depend on the totality of evidence that would support that conclusion.

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