A doctor amputated the wrong foot of one patient and another patient’s toe without her consent was fined and barred from practicing medicine for six months. The State Board of Medicine recommended this lenient sentence because as one doctor on the Board put it: “Doctors are not God, and hospitals are not heaven.” The truth is finally out. Now we know. What are we to learn from this.
Since doctors are not God, children’s problems with learning or behavior may not necessarily be solved by a doctor’s intervention. Some schools may inform parents that their child may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They suggest that the parent take their child to see a doctor. The frequent outcome is that the doctor prescribes ritalin.
Parents should know that there is no medical diagnostic test to certify that someone has ADHD, and a doctor in his office may not be the best qualified person to diagnose this disorder. Most children are not hyperactive in a quiet, one-on-one, doctor-patient visit. The tests are usually checklists filled out, not by the doctor, but by people who interact with the child, i.e. parents, relatives, friends and teachers.
Parents, before seeing the doctor for his diagnosis, should first go to their child’s school, sit in his classroom, and follow him around as moves through a school day. This should be done, not once, but several times. If some parents find this confusing, it helps to have another person, perhaps a professional, accompany them on these visits.
Parents should also visit the principal and ask question like: “What percentage of children in your school have ADHD?” “Are there children on ritalin ?” “Have many children in my child’s class recently been diagnosed as having ADHD?” “What adjustments does your school make to children’s programs before ritalin is prescribed?” “What adjustments are made after the children start taking ritalin?” “Is the doctor in contact with the school to monitor the effects of the ritalin on the children?”
A good doctor is an important component in maintaining your family’s health. But the doctor is only one member of the team. Parents need to be active, well-informed members for the team to function properly. Do not abdicate this responsibility. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your fellow team members and act accordingly.