When You and Your Child’s Doctor Disagree

by on November 6th, 2010
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Braces at 7? HPV vaccine for a 9-year-old boy? Those are the kind of decisions that might create disagreement between a parent and a health professional. When it comes to your kids, you have the ultimate say, but that doesn’t make it easy to handle the conflicts that arise when making children’s health care decisions. Here are some tips for addressing this thorny issue:

Choose Doctors with Care

Many conflicts can be avoided by choosing doctors with treatment philosophies similar to your own. Whether you’re a non-interventionist, a believer in alternative medicine, or strong proponent of pre-emptive treatment, selecting a pediatrician who embraces your philosophy as part of his practice will go a long way toward avoiding conflicts. Remember that in an emergency, this is the person you’ll be relying on to link you with specialists who also share your approach.

How do you find out about the doctor’s attitudes on issues of concern to you? Ask before you make that first appointment.

Discuss Objections Reasonably

No matter how well-chosen your child’s health care professionals, odds are there will be a time when you don’t agree with a particular recommendation. It’s important when this happens to avoid knee-jerk reactions based on general impressions. If you listen to what the doctor is saying and to his reasons for disagreeing with your point of view, you may find your own view changing. If not, do the research to make sure your decision to reject the doctor’s recommendation is a sound one. And remember, in most situations, no doesn’t mean never; you can defer a decision until you have time to look at online data in more depth and return to the discussion at a subsequent visit.

Hold Back on Self-Doubt

You’re not a bad parent for disagreeing with a doctor’s recommendation for your child. Keep in mind that recommendations aren’t mandates and they change with time. Take one of the most fundamental issues in pediatric care, the schedule of well-child visits. “…the current periodicity schedule has become anachronistic and, like its predecessors, it is not a scientific document,” Pediatric Digest noted in 2004.

While doctors treated the AAP schedule like a bible, parents skipped more than half of the scheduled visits and insurers balked at paying for all of them, saying the schedule was excessive.

Trust Your Own Instincts, Common Sense

There are plenty of controversial issues when it comes to children and health care: braces at 7, HPV vaccines for every child, dosing children with psychiatric medications, diagnosing children with Attention Deficit Disorder and Sensory Integration Disorder which depend not on medical tests but social judgments, to name a few. Finding the right care for your child isn’t about jumping on the bandwagon or avoiding it, but on addressing health needs in a way that works for you and your child. Using your common sense and trusting your own instincts in making health care decisions for your child will help you take advantage of emerging approaches without succumbing to each new and unproven trend that grips the medical establishment.


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