Although the specifics of medical neglect can vary by region, in general, it is considered to be the failure of a parent or guardian to provide adequate health care for a child or dependent. A number of factors can influence why a parent or guardian does not provide appropriate medical care. Still, medical neglect is typically defined as a parent who has the means or ability to provide care for a child but fails to do so, which can result in a number of subsequent health conditions or illnesses.
Medical neglect can cause many health problems, which can range from mild to severe. For instance, a parent can continually fail to schedule regular dental appointments or medical examinations for a child. Although the child might not appear to suffer from a condition that requires routine checkups, foregoing them can impede preventative care and might eventually result in infections, illnesses or diseases that go unnoticed. Additionally, some parents exhibit neglect by not purchasing prescriptions or dispensing medicine to a sick child, or by simply refusing to follow care instructions given by a medical professional. In any case, neglect harms the child by potentially worsening his or her condition or causing further illness.
Cases of medical neglect can result from numerous circumstances and are generally categorized as intentional or unintentional. In cases of intentional neglect, parents might exhibit characteristics that suggest an inability to reason or empathize with the child’s need for care, such as immaturity or hostility. In many households, mental and physical abuse is also a factor that contributes to neglect. Children in domestic environments of neglect can appear sickly, underdeveloped and thin. If a child suffers from a chronic illness, other symptoms specific to his or her condition might be exacerbated because of the lack of appropriate medical attention.
Although many cases of medical neglect occur because of a parent’s irresponsible behavior, some instances can been ruled as unintentional. For example, a parent might realize that his or her child needs medical attention but is be unable to transport the child to a medical facility or pay for treatment and medication. It also is possible for neglect to happen as a result of religious or cultural beliefs, in which medical care is not deemed necessary or sought after. In such cases, parents may not be charged or accused of medical neglect, but it is possible for local or regional officials to demand that a child receive appropriate care.