Background: Universal screening for intimate partner violence (IPV) in the emergency department (ED) has been advocated by many medical institutions. Policies implemented for IPV screening have met with numerous obstacles. One such obstacle is the perception by emergency personnel that patients might be offended by such screening if they presented to the ED for problems unrelated to trauma.
Objectives: To assess opinions of adult ED patients regarding a policy of universal IPV screening for women presenting to the ED.
Methods: This study was conducted in EDs in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St John's, Newfoundland. Patients were questioned as to whether it was appropriate for all women to be asked if they had experienced violent or threatening behaviour from someone close to them. Patients in significant pain or in extremis were not approached.
Results: The data consist of a convenience sample of 514 adult ED patients, aged 16–95 years. Two (0.4%) were excluded from the analysis. Of 512 analysed, 442 (86.0%) answered "yes" to the question, 53 (10.3%) answered "no", 17 (3.3%) had no opinion. There were no significant differences between the proportion of "yes" and "no" answers in the male and female groups.
Conclusion: Universal screening for IPV of adult female patients presenting to the ED was supported by most patients. Patient objections should not be seen as a reason to withhold questioning on this issue.