Law requires doctors to train to spot abusive head trauma - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Law requires doctors to train to spot abusive head trauma

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Karlie Mellick Karlie Mellick
Allison Ellis Allison Ellis
Matthew Vaughn Matthew Vaughn
Tuesday, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear codified those efforts, in a signing ceremony for House Bill 157. Tuesday, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear codified those efforts, in a signing ceremony for House Bill 157.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Kentucky has another line of defense against child abuse. Doctors must now attend mandatory training to detect inflicted head and body trauma.

Five years ago, 9-month-old Karlie Mellick suffered brain-swelling, broken ribs, a broken arm and a broken leg.

Her caregiver, Matthew Vaughn had told her family and her doctors that he'd found her unresponsive.

"She was abused for approximately two to three weeks prior to the fatal injuries that ultimately took her life and no physician recognized those," Karlie's grandmother, Allison Ellis, said. "They passed it off as just normal, like bruises from starting to crawl."

"Medical providers are missing some of the very early, subtle signs of abuse," said Dr. Stephen Wright, medical director for Kosair Children's Hospital.

"There isn't a single doctor in the state who wants to go to bed at night and know they missed a case of child abuse," said Dr. Melissa Currie, director of forensic medicine for the Kosair Charities Division of the University of Louisville Hospital.

Drs. Currie and Wright have tried to ensure that doesn't happen, by developing what's been dubbed TEN-4 training, essentially, reminding caregivers that bruises on the torso, ears and neck tend to be indicators of abuse in children younger than age 4.

Tuesday, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear codified those efforts, in a signing ceremony for House Bill 157. The bill requires the State Board of Medical Licensure to add an hour of continuing education for pediatricians, radiologists, family-practice specialists and Emergency-Urgent Care physicians, in detecting signs of inflicted head trauma. 

They would have to complete the online coursework by December 31, 2017, but Ellis questioned whether the law goes far enough.

"If we call and we turn it in (suspicions of abuse) are we actually going to have the time to go and look? To investigate it?" she asked.

"It is vital we do," said Rep. Addia Wuchner (R) Burlington, the Northern Kentucky nurse who sponsored the bill.

"We've set aside more money to hire case workers. More officers are aware of these warning signs," Wuchner said. "We are making it safer for Kentucky's children."

Vaughn took a plea deal in Karlie Mellick's death. He must serve 12 and a half years of a 17-year sentence to be eligible for parole.

Ellis believes her granddaughter's life could have been spared.

"I don't personally blame the doctor," she said. "But I was upset that nothing was recognized on Karlie."

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