Dr Sarah Humphery
'This case highlights complexities of child protection'
Can there be another explanation for what I witnessed? Can I be sure of what the mother said exactly?
My main duty of care has to be to the children. I would start by discussing what I had witnessed with colleagues at work. Had any of the other doctors seen either of the patients and had concerns? Do they have evidence of a drug problem, recent STDs or concerns about the children's safety?
After advice from my defence union I would contact the child protection service and refer the case. I'm unsure how the police would get involved. I presume the child protection agency would inform them I would check on this. Then there is the issue of our male patient who is quite possibly having sex with a minor. This may need to be reported.
I would like to speak to Sharmaine and Marika. As I appear to have had reasonable consultations with them in the past perhaps they would own up and tell me what was happening. This is a very serious situation, with Marika being involved in under-aged prostitution and drugs, which seems to be encouraged/coerced by her mother. I wonder how long this has been going on, especially as her mother was 'selling' her as even younger than she is.
I have to think of the safety and well-being of the three-year-old twins at home. Who is looking after them when Sharmaine and Marika are on the streets? Are they at risk of sexual abuse?
This case highlights for me the complexities of child protection issues and makes me realise, as a learning point, that I would like more training and expert guidance.