Family Issues

Kids Are Asked the Darndest Things

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….by snoopy doctors, complains Michael Graham in the Boston Herald. An excerpt, after his 13-year-old tells him of being interrogated about drug use and possible sexual abuse. (Guns, legal or not, are also the subject of medical investigation):

I send my daughter to the pediatrician to find out if she's fit to play lacrosse, and the doctor spends her time trying to find out if her mom and I are drunk, drug-addicted sex criminals.

We're not alone, either. Thanks to guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by the commonwealth, doctors across Massachusetts are interrogating our kids about mom and dad's "bad" behavior.

We used to be proud parents. Now, thanks to the AAP, we're "persons of interest."

The paranoia over parents is so strong that the AAP encourages doctors to ignore "legal barriers and deference to parental involvement" and shake the children down for all the inside information they can get.

My 2001 reason feature about controversial medical interferences in parent's decisions about their children's health.

NEXT: AP News Feed, Straight from the Heartland

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  1. that’s why I make my kids wear a wire when they go for their school physicals and camp checkups…

  2. I wonder if the doctor asked them to join the Junior Spies.

    “All [the children’s] ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed by in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak – ‘child hero’ was the phrase generally used – had overheard some compromising remark and denounced its parents to the Thought Police.”

    -Nineteen Eighty-Four

  3. “Who denounced you?” said Winston.
    “It was my little daughter,” said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride. “She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. I don’t bear her any grudge for it. In fact I’m proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit anyway.”

  4. I’d take anything that Michael Graham and the Boston Herald says with a big grain of salt. It is no surprise to me that he likes to blow things way out of proportion.

  5. If he gets so upset about this and changes doctors, clearly it’s because he has something to hide. This is reason to suspect him further…

  6. iih,

    Fair enough. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard stuff like this happening.

    As if I didn’t already have enough reasons to get a vasectomy.

  7. As if I didn’t already have enough reasons to get a vasectomy.

    The std equation is:

    number of children to the 10th power equals number of reasons for vasectomy.

  8. Before I read any of the comments, Drink! Surely a “fot the children” comment is in one of them. Damn, it’s too early for this.

  9. I wonder if they make really small “Don’t Snitch” t-shirts?

  10. Insist on attending the examination or find another doctor.

  11. I send my daughter to the pediatrician to find out if she’s fit to play lacrosse, and the doctor spends her time trying to find out if her mom and I are drunk, drug-addicted sex criminals.

    To be fair to the doctor, she probably only asked because she was familiar with Michael Graham and his right-wing radio show. Of course she’s going to assume that the daughter’s well-being is in jeopardy, being rasied by that guy.

  12. Doctors are godlike creatures. Legal barriers are created by mortals, therefore they do not apply to doctors.

  13. Yes, Chuck, that’s why so many police officers give them “professional courtesy.”

  14. I once had an arguement with a doctor about getting my medical records. He suddenly became more cooperative when I made getting the records a condition for paying the bill. That is one reason I prefer to not have health insurance.

  15. As a kid, I went head over heels down the steps while being stupid. Bruises all over resulted.. Naturally Mom took me to the family doc to get checked out The good doctor did get me alone and asked, confidentially (no I don’t believe it now, but I did then), how I got hurt. That was responsible medicine. Fishing expeditions aren’t. Why not? you ask. McMartin preschool, I reply.

  16. Mr. Carter…

    Your sarcasm detector. Turn it on, please. Unless you were just being snarky right back, in which case I guess I need more coffee.

  17. Taktix:

    By the way, I did not mean to undermine the obvious concerns of course. What business does a doctor have asking children what parents do or do not do — may be unless there are strong indications that abuse may be happening.

  18. Snarks abound! I need to turn on my sarcasm indicator, I suppose.

  19. Anyway, I’m pretty disappointed that Reasonoids are not defending the doctor’s freedom of speech. She can ask her patients anything she wants. If Mr. Graham doesn’t like it, he should find another doctor.

    Problem solved.

  20. Dan T.: sigh. You’re clearly not in touch with the Real America. Sad, really. Von Klumpfen’s Quandary clearly states that the doctor’s freedom of speech and Mr. Graham’s search should be predicated on a capital gains tax cut and complete destruction of all parks.

  21. “Anyway, I’m pretty disappointed that Reasonoids are not defending the doctor’s freedom of speech. She can ask her patients anything she wants. If Mr. Graham doesn’t like it, he should find another doctor.

    Problem solved.”

    Where did anyone say she couldn’t? Or is a variation of the old liberal trope that criticizing = stifling dissent?

  22. Wow. Eagle is soaring like never before.

    (tho’ have no idea what you mean with “criticizing = stifling dissent”, which is also strange, considering this current administration’s views on disagreement/ dissent)

  23. Dan T.,

    Where exactly does a “free speech” issue arise in all of this?

  24. Moose,

    I thought the administration formula was dissent = material support for the enemy = treason?

  25. Resistance is futile!

  26. David – that’s what I thought, too, but i didn’t get Eagle’s comment…

    is it time for some more coffee????

  27. I got Eagle’s comment! nyah!

  28. *reads Reinmoose’s comments. In a rage, goes and whithers the taints on Erasure poster*

    **where the taints would be. my. those leather pants sure are shiny. but it’s too late.**

  29. When I was a kid, around 1976, I had this horrid doctor who used to try to get me to tell him about my father’s “drinking problem.” My dad, being a bit short-waisted, did have a large belly but it was not a beer belly. It was clear though, from my doctor’s reaction, that he did not believe me when I said my dad didn’t drink much alcohol.

    In general, that doctor talked down to me, even using a baby voice when he spoke. So I hated him. I dreaded my appts and could never wait to get away from him. I doubt I would’ve confided a thing even if there were some problem, and it was entirely because of his nosy & condescending attitude.

    It’s not that doctor’s shouldn’t try to be alert to cues that a patient is being abused or neglected, but a “guideline” that they should press patients for information even in the absence of such cues is counterproductive — likely to turn off more patients than it is worth. Digging for information about other family members is even less advisable. But this falls right in with the trend of physicians overstepping their bounds, advocating for gun control or the abolishment of sharp pointy kitchen knives.

    There probably is a set of fairly reliable indicators that could be used to ascertain if a pediatric patient is in undue danger in the home, and I’m all for encouraging doctors and any professionals who are involved in children’s health, safety, education etc. to act in the presence of those indicators.

  30. What I believe Eagle means is that some people (cough) think just because many of us think it’s dumb that the doctor is so nosy, we must therefore think that she has no right to be and advocate preventing doctors from being nosy.

  31. one time my doctor asked me if i had any guns in my home. i got a new doctor.

  32. “Does Daddy own a gun?”

    “Daddy keeps a loaded .357 under the bed.”

  33. Once a doctor took my EKG results and went through every detail, explaining and answering questions. (and used the protractor to show the angles of the waves, and explained what all the numbers meant, what expected ranges were, etc)…

  34. “Anyway, I’m pretty disappointed that Reasonoids are not defending the doctor’s freedom of speech. She can ask her patients anything she wants. If Mr. Graham doesn’t like it, he should find another doctor.

    Problem solved.”

    Where did anyone say she couldn’t? Or is a variation of the old liberal trope that criticizing = stifling dissent?

    Well, Graham’s point was that doctors shouldn’t ask questions such as these to their patients, right?

    If he’s saying “I wish doctors wouldn’t do this but I don’t want to do anything to stop them” then, well, who cares?

  35. I was a very accident-prone kid, probably because I did a lot of stupid ass stuff. The best injury ever (which I recently found out, opened up an investigation into my parents’ methods) was when I was making hush puppies and using low-heat oil instead of high-heat, and it caught on fire. I took it off the heat and put a lid on, but smoke kept coming out so I decided to take it outside. While I was carrying it, some flame licked out from under the lid and I dropped the pot of flaming oil all over my legs (I was wearing nylon/some kind of plastic athletic shorts at the time), thus setting my legs on fire and melting my shorts to my legs. I had to use crutches for a week because I couldn’t bend my right leg at all.

    But anyways, my parents got grilled by the principal of my middle school (this was 6th grade) cuz I was stupid. If my doctor had implied any foul play, I would have been pissed.

  36. Dan, you obtuse fuckwit, the reason the doctors are asking the questions is that a trade guild in collusion with the state government decided it would be policy, not because of any choices made by the doctor. Next!

  37. “Once a doctor took my EKG results and went through every detail, explaining and answering questions. (and used the protractor to show the angles of the waves, and explained what all the numbers meant, what expected ranges were, etc)…”

    How often do you get to Cuba?

  38. Dan T.
    time to bend over…or maybe just cough, if the MD doesn’t want to be too intrusive.

  39. Reason #16,523 not to have children.

  40. I don’t see a problem here. It’s not a state- or federally-mandated program to ask, it’s an individual doctor.

    Having once been a 13-year-old girl, I’d bet that she was particularly sensitive to any questions about sex and more eager to share that information with her dad to get a reaction out of him / bring up the topic.

    I live in a wealthy Washington suburb, and I volunteer with the local child welfare system here. I’m against government intervention through-and-through, but here, the family court judge is really fair and fantastic to parents and kids alike, and there are multiple safeguards in place against incompetent social workers. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. In addition to the 5+ new meth babies a week, there is an alarming number of ‘parents’ who are well-known in the community, comfortably upper-middle class, etc. who either molest their kids directly or knowingly allow others to do it. (What I’ll NEVER get are the wealthy ones who prostitute their 9-year-olds for drugs…)

    If the family doctor or a teacher doesn’t catch wind of it, that stuff can stay hidden for years. I would almost consider it a doctor’s responsibility to ask a few questions in that regard…

  41. I don’t see a problem here. It’s not a state- or federally-mandated program to ask, it’s an individual doctor … If the family doctor or a teacher doesn’t catch wind of it, that stuff can stay hidden for years. I would almost consider it a doctor’s responsibility to ask a few questions in that regard…

    Best of all, if questioning kids about potential illegal behavior on Mommy and Daddy’s part becomes standard procedure for pediatric exams, this won’t possibly have the blowback consequence of making abusive child-molester parents (or even non-abusive parents who like to smoke the occasional joint behind closed doors) reluctant to take their kids to the doctor. Hooray!

  42. VM,

    I gave my love a cherry that had no stone…

  43. No doc better ever ask my kids what goes on in my home. My kiddos would ask what it had to do with their height/weight and pulse and after failing to get a reasonable answer, tell the doc to stick it in his ass.

    Docs aren’t god-like when you hear them fart at home.

  44. good. gooooooooooooooooood.

    *pours mustard on Mr. Steven Crane (who, incidentally, looks better in a plain white t shirt)*

  45. “””I don’t see a problem here. It’s not a state- or federally-mandated program to ask, it’s an individual doctor.”””

    Don’t bet on it.

    It’s sort of like a company that won’t hire smokers. Some people my argue that it’s the job’s right to decide, yet they don’t realize it’s not. The company may have been forced to do so because their insurance company said “Do it or we’ll raise rates”.

    I’m willing to bet doctors prefer to practice medicine.

  46. “I don’t see a problem here. It’s not a state- or federally-mandated program to ask, it’s an individual doctor.”

    I think it is mandated. Everytime I have gone to the doctor recently they ask me: “Are you being abused? Do you feel threatened? Is there anything about your homelife you would like to discuss?”

    And I’m a full grown man…

  47. If the family doctor or a teacher doesn’t catch wind of it, that stuff can stay hidden for years. I would almost consider it a doctor’s responsibility to ask a few questions in that regard…

    You can’t just throw around accusations and see if any of them stick, though. It’s a perversion of justice and it really just doesn’t work.

    It’s a way of picking on the poor, the naive, the uneducated without having to worry about uncovering anything uncomfortable for someone who could retaliate. Exactly how all totalitarian regimes work.

  48. Guys(and gals) we know the solution to this problem. Two words; Libertarian militia.
    But who is going to step up?
    Perplexing is that New Hampshire is what, a dozen miles away?
    Oh well, slowly but surely America disolves away.
    We deserve the hell that is becoming AMERICA.

  49. I’m sorry, but this is both an obvious attempt to invade the parents’ privacy and is an obvious boundary violation.

    There have been discussions on this very topic for a couple of years among the shooting community.

  50. So the link between a child’s health and whether there is sexual abuse, alocoholism, or unsecured guns in the home is a mystery?

    This is tinfoil hat territory, folks. Sorry to break the news.

  51. Everytime I have gone to the doctor recently they ask me: “Are you being abused? Do you feel threatened? Is there anything about your homelife you would like to discuss?”

    Does he ask you if anyone touches you in your special area?

    So the link between a child’s health and whether there is sexual abuse, alocoholism, or unsecured guns in the home is a mystery?

    No, yes, and yes.

    Alcoholism =/= beating your child. Unsecured guns =/= dead child. Unless the child has bruises around its neck or a gunshot wound in the chest, the parents’ drinking habits and gun ownership are none of the doctor’s business.

  52. And I might add that the doctor’s responsibility to question the child’s (mis)treatment ought to be a *moral* one, not necessarily legal or financial. Come to think of it, liability is probably why doctors are doing this. Just running down the checklist to satisfy the insurance company’s demands.

  53. Alcoholism =/= beating your child. Unsecured guns =/= dead child.

    They are not equivalents, but let’s not pretend there isn’t some overlap. Loaded guns where kids can reach them is a serious threat to their health. Parents who are violent, or just careless, drunks can be, too.

    Kids are a lot smarter than they get credit for. If they think there’s something dangerous about what’s going on in their homes with these things, there’s a good chance they’re right.

  54. Rhywun,

    I’d say that assessing the child’s health and the health of a child’s lifestyle is a professional responsibility for a pediatrician charged with being that child’s PCP.

  55. I was once a 13 year old girl, and I can tell you that my doctor, father, and mother were all at the bottom of the list of people I would have wanted to discuss sex with. I guess my friend whose stepdad sometimes got a little too handy would have been further down, but I pretty much refused to talk to him about anything anyway.

    “This is tinfoil hat territory, folks. Sorry to break the news.”

    You’re equating discomfort and displeasure with having one’s family life probed by a quasi-authority figure with the power to bring the family court system down on one’s head with a symptom of schizophrenia. That is a serious overstatement.

  56. Guys(and gals) we know the solution to this problem. Two words; Libertarian militia.
    But who is going to step up?

    The reason there’s no libertarian militia is because you guys aren’t actually being oppressed by the government.

    Members of the privileged class may whine when things don’t always go their way but they benefit from the system too much to really want it overthrown.

  57. Members of the privileged class may whine when things don’t always go their way but they benefit from the system too much to really want it overthrown.

    So now libertarians, despite having no voice at any level of the federal government, are members of the privileged class?

    Do you have a substance abuse problem, or are you really that stupid?

  58. sigh.

    listen it’s dan’tien. it’s what he does. you do not ask the snake why it slithers; you do not ask the squirrel why it swirls, twirls and whirls. it merely is, like the great tao, and like all of us.

  59. “””This is tinfoil hat territory, folks. Sorry to break the news.”””

    Yeah, but who’s wearing the hats?

  60. “””I’d say that assessing the child’s health and the health of a child’s lifestyle is a professional responsibility for a pediatrician charged with being that child’s PCP.”””

    Health of lifestyle, a doctor’s responsibility? Give me a break.

  61. I think the medical rationale is that if the kid has a broken bone, the doctor will refuse to set it if she’s a secondhand smoker.

  62. Or playing on something other than a rubberized playground. Because that would be an unhealthy lifestyle.

  63. So now libertarians, despite having no voice at any level of the federal government, are members of the privileged class?

    You’re members of the privileged class because most libertarians have plenty of money and lead fairly pleasant lives, sitting around all day arguing politics online.

  64. Dan T’s got us dead to rights. We’re all plutocrats who have sore asses from sitting on big piles of gold coins (most in canvas bags with “$$$” on them, but plenty of loose one’s, too). I’m personally nursing a wound from sitting on the point of one of the 500 caret flawless diamonds that has been carelessly scattered into my pile of filthy lucre.

    Please pardon me while I polish my monocle and adjust my top hat.

  65. Scooby
    yeah, but what happens when your doc questions you about how you got your sore ass…will you turn in your family for making you sit on those piles of gold coins?

  66. I don’t have kids. If I did, this article shows me the importance of talking to my kids about them being asked questions by anyone and to let me know if they did. Maybe the kid(s) would listen.

  67. Scooby, could you pass the Grey Poupon?

  68. “Does your Daddy own a gun?”

    “Daddy has a concealed handgun license. Let’s call him in and ask.”

    Actually the physicians who see my family often bring up the subject of firearms. Either it’s hunting season and they want to brag, or someone in the office needs a class to renew their CHL.

    I don’t keep statistics, of course, but among my CHL classes I probably have more students in the medical field than any other occupation except retired. My first class this year was a family of four; two physicians, a nurse, and a physical therapist.

    God I love Texas.

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