Evidence Collection on Comatose Patients: A Systematic Review of Ohio Law

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Forensic nurses in Ohio are challenged with not having the proper guidance to perform their professional duties. The nurse must provide advocacy when their patient is unable to make conscious decisions on their own behalf. While not finding up to date standardized polies and procedures on the collection of evidence its crucial for nurses to follow their scope of practice. Forensic nurses should only act in a professional way and make ethical decisions to provide the best outcomes. When acting on a comatose patient’s behalf the nurse must make sure there is legal documentation to collect the evidence that is requested. The proper documentation is a warrant issued by law enforcement, a healthcare power of attorney, or a court appointed guardian. If the patient was able to consent to the collection before being unconscious, then the evidence would be collected per protocol. Nurses need to protect not only their patients but also themselves. When a forensic nurse acts out of their scope of practice it places them in a position of liability. Nurses may face legal action against them from the facility if they collect evidence from a comatose patient without the proper legal consents. The patient could also take matters into their hands and take legal action against the nurse and medical facility for negligence and violating the patient’s rights. The integrated practice model by Virginia Lynch was the first model to define forensic nursing. The model is composed of three principal components to corelate with forensics within the healthcare system. The interlocking circles represent interconnected, interagency coordination, cooperation, and communication essentials to public health, safety, and social justice. The inner circles of the model connect the larger circles. The first is the fields of expertise, including nursing science, forensic science, and criminal justice. The second component is the circle is the healthcare system that combines the healthcare system with forensics nursing with the victims and the offenders. The last component of the model within the circle is the societal impacts that combine human behaviors and social sanctions with crime and violence. The components are education, prevention, society, culture, politics, sociology, and criminology. Evidence collection corelates with the model for forensic nursing because it relates and connects a critically ill patient with the criminal justice system and relates to the collection of evidence on a comatose patient. The research performed was an educational approach to forensic nursing practice. The results showed there needs to be more policies and procedures implemented on the collection of evidence on comatose patients in the state of Ohio. Implementing new policies and procedures surrounding evidence collection would provide better outcomes for patients, protect their private health information, and rights.