Defensive driving, defensive medicine, defensive . . . parenting? Yep. Earlier this week I wrote about the parents who say Boston Children’s Hospital kidnapped their daughter. With similar stories surfacing all around the country, mom’s and dad’s are taking proactive measures to protect their rights as parents.
It’s not so strange if you think about it. Doctors are often accused of recommending diagnostic tests or treatments that are not “necessarily the best option for the patient, but an option that mainly serves . . . to protect the physician” from getting sued. This “defensive medicine” – a reaction to concerns over “sue happy” patients – undermines the trust of parents who want doctors to focus on the best interest of their child.
It’s a broken system.
After hearing of cases in which asking for a second opinion resulted in a loss of custody, even normal, reasonable parents are expressing fears about taking their children in for a checkup. On the flipside, they also have concerns about NOT taking them for fear of being accused of medical neglect. So what’s a parent to do?
Obviously you are the only one that can answer that question, but here are some thoughts I found helpful.
The Case for Well-Child Visits
In her ebook, A Practical Guide To Children’s Health, Kate Tietje of Modern Alternative Mama outlines the case for and against well-child visits. If you haven’t already picked it up, I highly recommend that you do!
It contains over 300 primary references sources – mostly medical journals – and it covers topics that are important to parents, like:
super foods, special diets, picky eaters, healthy snack ideas, OTC medications, prescription medications, vaccines, herbal remedies for common conditions, sleep issues, a guide to alternative practitioners, organic clothing and bedding, car seat safety, and even education
According to Kate, here are some reasons you might consider well-child visits:
1. You’re planning to follow the CDC vaccination schedule. “One of the primary purposes of well-child visits is vaccinating. Children who follow the CDC schedule receive vaccines at their 2, 4, 6, 12, 15, 18, and 24-month visits (as well as 4 or 5 years, 11 – 12 years, and perhaps immediately before college, as well as annual flu shots). This coincides exactly with the typical well-child visit schedule. If you do plan to follow the CDC vaccine schedule, then you will need to attend all the visits.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
2. You want a good working relationship with your physician. “Another reason for well-child visits is to develop a relationship with a doctor. If a concern about a child’s health ever arises, the doctor will be familiar with the child’s medical history and able to address the concern more accurately than a doctor who is not familiar with the child.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
3. Your doctor may catch something you missed. “In some cases, pediatricians can catch certain developmental or other health concerns early, simply by seeing the child regularly. Screening questions or tests can turn up a concern and allow parents to receive an early diagnosis and early intervention, if needed.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
4. You want to document that your child is well cared for. “Having a record of well-child visits also protects parents, especially those who choose to follow an alternative lifestyle, from being accused of medical neglect. An ongoing record showing regular well-child visits goes a long way to negate such accusations, supposing they are ever made.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
Obviously, there are many reasons to opt for well-child visits. But there are also plenty of reasons not to.
The Case Against Well-Child Visits
1. You do not vaccinate or follow a delayed vaccination schedule. “Not all parents follow the CDC vaccine schedule. Some follow an alternative/delayed schedule, and some choose to forgo vaccines all together. For parents who do not vaccinate or who delay until after age 1 or 2, taking the baby to the doctor every couple of months may seem like overkill – especially if they are not first-time parents. These parents may choose to skip some or all of the well-child check ups.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
2. You don’t want your child exposed to viruses, etc. “Every time a child goes into a doctor’s office, s/he has the potential to be exposed to illness – just by the nature of what doctors do. Even with careful hygiene and separate waiting areas (which not all doctors have), children are at greater risk of catching something in a doctor’s office than almost any other place. Some parents do not feel that the risk to their child of getting sick is worth the benefit of the visit. After all, if the doctor is primarily going to weigh and measure the child, that is nothing that the parents can’t do at home.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
Mommypotamus Note: I believe it’s important for children to encounter viruses and such – it’s how their immune systems mature.
3. Doctors rarely spend enough time with their patients to know them, may not take parents concerns seriously, and may have other biases that affect the patient/doctor relationship.“There is also the fact that for a variety of reasons, most doctors cannot spend more than 5 – 10 minutes with their patients. Even the excellent ones can only carve out 30 – 40 minutes for each patient. Seeing patients for this short amount of time every few months to annually is not enough time to really ‘know’ or be familiar with a patient. A parent who does truly know their child would be more likely to notice if something were ‘off’ with that child sooner than a doctor would for this very reason. Doctors also may refer patients or not based on inherent biases and not take parental concerns seriously.
(Which is a good reason to have a doctor with whom you have an excellent partnership, and one whom you trust. Then if something ever did seem to be wrong, the doctor would listen carefully to the parent’s observations and instincts and treat the child in conjunction with the parents.) ” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
4. Some doctors give outdated advice and overprescribe medications. “In some cases, doctor choice is limited and parents are forced to see doctors who do not respect their wishes, who are quick to prescribe drugs, or who offer bad, outdated medical advice (such as offering solids to a two-week-old baby). In these cases, the frustration of dealing with a doctor who is unhelpful may outweigh any benefits of having a relationship with a doctor.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
5. Parents may need to look elsewhere for relevant information. “Pediatricians, while experts in children’s health, disease, and treating growing and developing children, are not often experts in practical matters that parents really need help with – breastfeeding, carseat safety, helping babies to sleep, and so on. Pediatricians are often even less helpful with ‘alternative’ parents, as they do not know much about and may actively recommend against extended breastfeeding, extended rear-facing in the car, co- sleeping, and other common alternative practices.” ( Source: A Practical Guide To Children’s Health)
6. Some doctors threaten to involve CPS if a parent doesn’t go along with their recommendations. This one is not from the book, but it does indeed happen.
What We Do
When our first two potami were little we opted out of routine pediatrician visits, and instead chose to see a pediatric chiropractor bi-weekly. (Kate has a section on Alternative Doctors for more about this.) Now we’ve found a pedi that we LOVE, who respects us as parents and who is open to our “alternative” parenting style – co-sleeping, natural remedies, etc. We don’t do ALL the recommended visits, but we do at least schedule an annual visit for each child. (We also still see a wonderful chiropractor)
No one can decide if you should do well-child visits except for you, but I hope you find this post helpful in thinking through your options!
Where to buy A Practical Guide To Children’s Health
If you’re looking for a guide to children’s health that provides empowering information and encouragement, I highly recommend Kate’s book. Her philosophy – which I found I have a lot in common with – is well supported by research, with over 300 primary sources (largely from medical journals) cited in the book.
All the sources are clickable, so if you want to do more research on your own you can easily use this guide as a “jumping off” point.
Kate has graciously offered a coupon to you, too.
From now through March 10th, you can use coupon code POTAMUS20 at checkout to save 20% off the cost of the book.