Misplaced Evidence, Missed Opportunities: Protocols for Handling Ballistic Evidence in Pediatric Patients.

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DOI: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000761


BACKGROUND: Gun-related injury is now the number one cause of death in pediatric trauma patients. Many hospitals lack dedicated forensic nurses or updated protocols for handling ballistic evidence. Evidence not collected, handled improperly, or misplaced may deny a victim the basic human right to justice.

OBJECTIVE: This article aims to describe an initiative to highlight the importance of proper management of ballistic evidence and to educate medical providers on best practices for the documentation, handling, removal, and transfer of ballistic evidence.

METHODS: After discovering 24 "orphaned" bullets and bullet fragments in our hospital that had not been turned over to law enforcement, we sought to turn in evidence to the proper authorities and implement protocols to prevent this error in the future. New protocols were written by forensic staff, and education on new protocols was provided via in-person training, grand rounds, emails, and other collaborative initiatives.

RESULTS: Evidence was matched to police reports using the patient name and date of birth on evidence labels. The median (interquartile range [IQR]) time of lost ballistic evidence was 1,397 (903, 1604) days, with the oldest bullet removed in 2015. All bullets were successfully returned to law enforcement with a median (IQR) time from bullet discovery to collection of 78 (78, 174) days.

CONCLUSIONS: Ballistic evidence handling protocols are essential for all hospitals. Dedicated, trained forensic staff should be employed to ensure proper evidence handling.

Journal Title

Journal of trauma nursing : the official journal of the Society of Trauma Nurses





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MeSH Keywords

Humans; Child; Documentation; Nursing Care; Patients


Documentation; Nursing Care; Patients

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