Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2017

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Doctors sounding alarm after spike in child abuse deaths

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L.E. Baskow

UMC Emergency Medicine’s Dr. Jay Fisher addresses a group gathered at a press conference to discuss the shocking rise in deaths among abused children treated by the hospital on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.

Even after 25 years in medicine, Dr. Jay Fisher still struggles to deal with the heartbreaking cases of child abuse he sees.

And in seven cases this year, the young lives he seeks to save have been lost.

“To lose a life is to lose a whole world, and that’s seven worlds we’ve lost thus far this year due to child abuse,” said Fisher, director of the Children’s Hospital of Nevada at University Medical Center. “Any number above zero is too many.”

Officials are sounding the alarm after Children’s Hospital has seen the number of child abuse deaths this year more than double from three in 2016.

“We’ve seen a dramatic rise in child abuse deaths this year,” Fisher said. “We’re asking all of you in the community to help be the solution to this difficult problem.”

Fisher urged people to be on the lookout for signs of child abuse. They include unexplained bruises, burns or welts or a child who appears frightened of a caregiver. Malnutrition, poor hygiene and untreated medical problems are also signs of neglect.

Child abuse deaths usually don’t come without warning and are typically preceded by a pattern of abuse, Fisher said.

Parents should be cautious about whom they choose to care for their children.

People with substance abuse problems or who are involved in other criminal activity, for instance, might pose a danger, Fisher said.

If a caregiver or parent is beginning to feel overwhelmed while caring for a child, they should make sure the child is in a safe place, such as a car seat or play pen, and take a few minutes to gather themselves, Fisher said.

“We know that parenting is a 24/7, 365 day a year enterprise, and these stresses can make each one of us at points of weakness,” he said. “We ask you to pause and step away so you don’t become embroiled in a situation that could lead to a child death.”

Child abuse can have serious, lifetime consequences for survivors, Fisher said. Child abuse is associated with a greater risk for mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, social problems and teen pregnancy, he said.

The hospital has created a child abuse prevention booklet that is available online at chnv.org.