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March 2, 2009

A Routine Doctor's Visit Reveals More Than Expected




I know I'm raising my kids in a culture that is anti-morality and anti-Catholic. The blatant garbage is easy to explain. Blasphemous art exhibits, scandalous motion pictures, maniacal N.O.W. protesters at a pro-life march. Those I’m prepared for, and so are my kids. We talk about it at the table or at bedtime or just after we’ve read something in the paper.

Check-up, Wake-up
By Kristine L. Franklin
Copyright: Envoy Magazine

It’s the subtle stuff that often knocks me for a parental loop. Like when my good, conscientious, Christian family doctor offered birth control pills to my twelve-year-old daughter. I’m not making this up. Jody said I should write about it so other parents would be prepared. We were definitely unprepared.


It was time for Jody’s seventh grade check-up so I made an appointment with my own doctor we’ll call Dr. X. Dr. X is a Christian, someone I trusted to be sensitive with a twelve-year-old. I told Jody that everything would be fine even if it felt a little embarrassing. I explained about my own yearly physical, and that hers wouldn’t be nearly that extensive. It was just a school physical, but because of her age the “growing up” topics would probably come up.

And indeed they did. I went with Jody into the examination room. Doctor X was friendly and kind. When Dr. X asked if Jody had any questions about puberty, she smiled and said, “My mom has already told me everything I need to know.”

“That’s wonderful,” said the doctor and then proceeded to check Jody’s heart, lungs, ears, and throat. When Dr. X asked me to leave the room for a moment I didn’t think twice. I winked at Jody and left, honoring her privacy and modesty. 

Not five minutes later the doctor called me back in. One look at Jody and I knew she was distressed. My motherly alarm system kicked in and I felt my heart speed up. Dr. X left the room and I said, 

“What’s wrong?”

“The doctor asked me about birth control,” said Jody. “I don’t even know what it is.”

Stunned is an inadequate description. I felt my face turning red with rage. Dr. X returned and I literally bit the inside of my cheek to keep from spewing forth loud invective. I knew I needed the whole story before I did or said anything. When Jody and I got to the car she told me everything.

Here’s the gist. When they were alone the doctor asked Jody if she was drinking or using drugs. Jody said no and the doctor then told Jody in a firm way how important it was to keep drug- and alcohol-free. Then the doctor asked if Jody had a boyfriend. Jody said no. Then the doctor said, “If you ever get a boyfriend, and you’re having sexual relations, I can give you birth control pills.”

I told Dr. X that both Jody and I were offended and that what had been said to my daughter violated the physician’s oath to “do no harm.” Dr. X apologized for offending, but told me that it was a routine 
conversation for 
girls Jody’s age.

Pause a moment and let that sink in.

In the calmest voice I could muster I told Jody, “The doctor was totally out of line to say that to you. It was wrong, it was inappropriate, it embarrassed you and I am so sorry I left you alone.” I then explained very briefly what “birth control” means, to which Jody replied, “How stupid.”

I prayed and fumed. When we got home I phoned the doctor. In a calm, divinely-assisted tone of voice, I asked for the other side of the story. It squared exactly with what Jody had reported. Then I told Dr. X in no uncertain terms that both Jody and I were offended and that what had been said to my daughter violated the physician’s oath to “do no harm.” Dr. X apologized for offending, but told me that it was a routine conversation for girls Jody’s age. “It’s part of a community-wide effort to cut down on teen pregnancy.” 

I told Dr. X that offering to prescribe dangerous hormonal drugs to a preadolescent child behind her parent’s back was a horrific practice (I really said “horrific”) and that the message on premarital sex should be as firm as the message against drugs and alcohol. “You passed up a perfect opportunity to help a child remain committed to chastity.” The doctor didn’t say much.

I don’t know if that conversation did any good. That doctor is a product of our culture and I’m just one of those ultra-brainwashed Catholic mothers who naively assumes that her children can and will abstain from sex before marriage. I can only hope that some of my words sunk in. 

Jody wanted me to write this down so all Catholic parents would know to be careful. Even a good doctor with good intentions can point your child toward the path of destruction.

Consider yourself forewarned.

Source: Envoy Magazine, vol. 5.2
Author: Kristine L. Franklin
This article is copyrighted by Envoy Magazine 1996-2009, All rights reserved.


20 comments:

  1. Good for you, Kristine, for calling the doctor. I've heard about this practice and more parents are standing firm in remaining within the doctor's office saying, "Whatever you need to talk to her about, you can do so with me present. I am her guardian."

    I am completely shocked that this Christian doctor did this! If there is a problem with teen pregnancy, one would think that a doctor would appreciate an approach of celibacy, which of course would stop unwanted pregnancy.

    Decades ago, I called a local talk station that was discussing teens having sex. I was in high school at the time. The host took my call and I told him that adults shouldn't assume that every teen was out-of-control with their hormones and having sex every chance they could. Some of us were trying to live chastely and such assumptions weren't helpful to us. The host was slightly surprised by my passion and arguments but at least it gave some "well-meaning" adults something to chew on.

    Keep on fighting the good fight, my sister!

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  2. I think I remember reading this article when it first appeared. It is still striking how common this scenario is. My mother never had to experience this with her kids. When I told her what my kids have to listen to from the doctors, she was shocked. And she's a retired public school teacher! We've gone through it with all of our boys. For some reason, our female MD who sees the girls, doesn't feel the need to "educate" them. She's not outwardly religious, she just knows our family and knows how they are raised. The male MD who sees the boys also knows our family but told us the same party line that "it's mandated by the American Academy of Pediatrics," or some such garbage. He has toned down his condom preaching since we objected. I think it's crucial for parents to talk to their kids' docs openly about their family values and respecting kids' right to value chastity.

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  3. Hard to imagine that in five short years we could face the same issue with our 7 year old angelic daughter. All the more reason to find a catholic practitioner and interview them before accepting them as a provider to your children.

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  4. I'm glad you posted about this. I took my teen son to his annual checkup a few years ago. The doctor asked me to leave the room. He said he was mandated by the state to have a private talk with my son. I trusted him so I left.
    Later my son told me his doctor had asked him if he was attracted to girls? Then, how about boys?
    My son's reaction was "I can't believe you asked me that".
    Since we live in a liberal state I thought there was nothing I could do. I wish now that I had spoken up.

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  5. For pity's sake, the child is 12! Even if promoting abstinence only "delays" sexual activity, it would still be better than encouraging a 12 year old to have sex!

    I recently went for a physical with a new doctor and he drove me nuts. He went on and on about loosing 20 some odd pounds because it was "unhealthy". He gave me a diet for which a PB&J sandwich goes over the lunchtime limit. Yet when I said that I practiced chastity he was flustered and could only say that he "doesn't judge".

    Oh no, he'll judge (down to the gram) how much I eat for lunch, but I could sleep with 10 men and it would be just fine - no judgments there. NO we can't tell someone that their sexual behavior is unhealthy!

    [end rant]

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  6. I agree with tmacdonald - find a Catholic practitioner and INTERVIEW him or her.

    I know that doctors ask these questions - My oldest was asked about sexual activity and birth control over 6 years ago (she was 14) but I was in the room. Being asked to leave the room is the most frightening thing to me.

    My Catholic OB asked if I wanted my tubes tied while he was delivering my youngest child. This is the doctor to whom I was going to recommend to my oldest.

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  7. Outrage, no doubt I would feel that...and I would not have been able to bite my tongue but no doubt the whole entire staff and waiting room would have heard it. Would I have been sorry? Not sure. Now, my daughter is almost 23 and has had two lovely children and they all live next door to me. After the second child, her doctor at "St. John's Medical Clinic" told her he wanted her to be on birth control pills. She said she is Catholic and won't do that. He then told her that there are lots of Catholic women he gives birth control pills to and it's ok. She was not happy but took the prescription...and never filled it. Grrrr.

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  8. Same thing happened with my daughters and me. My youngest was outraged. She pretty much told the doctor that she would tell me things a long time before she would tell her anything and that we both agreed on matters of morality and sexual health. I don't know what the doctor thought, but we stopped going to her not long after. I'd pitty the doctor that might try to have that conversation with her now days. She's become very skilled at expressing her own opinion and I dare say that the doctor would get an earful of TOB from her now.

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  9. Wow! I am thankful for my doctor. He has a poster providing information for NFP in his office. I don't think my children are going to get "the talk" from him. Now, if I can just keep him from retiring for 10 more years...

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  10. How dreadful to violate a child's innocence in this way. I have a twelve year old daughter, too, and I can imagine her saying "How stupid," too.

    Our doctor told my son that "he would use drugs," no matter how he protested that he wouldn't. I confess that I'm putting off check-ups now. I'm locked into this practice because of our insurance. One thing for sure, at this point: I wouldn't leave the room during an exam.

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  11. My wife's OB/GYN is the most dorkiest, shortest, bowtie wearing, awesome, Catholic, NFP promoting, large-family raising, smartest guy we know! I hope he's around for our (possible) daughter someday (we have two sons currently). We have given birth in a Catholic-run hospital, but I'm waiting for the day some anti-life/Catholic question gets asked because hopefull one of my quick-wit rehearsed answers will finally get to be used while putting some unsuspecting doctor in their place. Done with as much charity as possible, of course.

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  12. Doctors ask you to fill out about a zillion forms. They have to give you some forms that detail patient privacy. They give you a lot of information to make sure they get paid. Seems like they could have a form for parents who bring their under age children concerning questions they may or may not want asked and products or services they may or may not want them to discuss or offer. My wife resents the fact that it is assumed you are on birth control with any doctor she sees. She always writes in we leave that to God.
    With the new plans for information technology being pushed in the Stimulus, you will see a lot more questions asked and demanded. The government is forming a 15 panel board who will send out guidlines to the doctors and hospitals on various treatment "suggestions". Of course there will be consequences to those who do not follow suggests such as limited or no coverage. This administration is also trying to revive the UN plan to give children rights that could remove the parent from having control of their own children. This is a 1990 resolution that has never been fully ratified. We did agree with the portions concerning the use of children as soldiers and also children being exposed to and utilized in pornography and prositituion. Most of the other parts is to gain control of your kids by the it takes a village crowd. If you tie all of this together, your 12 year old doctor may get a lot more than what is discussed in this post and parents may be obligated to drop them off at the door and the child prevented from discussing what went on in this new world. If you do not take your child in, they could be prevented from attending schools.

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  13. Oh how terrible! Needless to say, I think the confrontation was needed, even if it doesn't change his mind. We are called to stand up for what is true, and Kristine did the right thing.

    What happened there seemed so underhanded. I will be sure to watch out for stuff like that when my children reach that age... which seems like an eternity away, but I am sure it will spring upon me sooner than I can imagine. The world will only get worse with time.

    We need to be prayerful folks. Something I don't bring to the throne of God often enough... however, protection for my children is at the top of the list!

    All blessings in Christ our Lord,
    -g-

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  14. It goes beyond birth control. Our 27-year old daughter has breast cancer, and the nature of the cancer requires that her estrogen be shut down for five years. She expressed a desire to someday have children, and two different doctors assumed that they should make arrangements to have her eggs harvested to be fertilized and implanted later. We repeatedly had to explain, "We're devout Catholic, and she just won't do that." This wasn't offered as an option, she wasn't asked if she's interested, the doctors just started lining up appointments for her. Anyone who wasn't as well grounded on these issues would have just gone along with the procedure as standard treatment. There was no discussion offered; instead we had to be pro-active in refusing the procedure. It's very difficult to reject a doctor's advice when your life is literally in his hands.

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  15. Gosh,, that is horrible....
    I would have understood if the doctor explained as an SOP, what a birth control pill is for.

    But offering it to her even before she has a boyfriend? and opening up the idea of having sex before marriage? This is out of hand..

    Thank God in the Philippines, we are still trying to defend the morality of the citizens by fighting of the Reproductive Health Bill

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  16. We got our pediatrician because that's the one our former plan (an HMO) gave us. Now, it seems truly Providential.
    Why? I have seen a nurse about to take a teenage patient back and stop--she couldn't without a parent present. She wouldn't even weigh him. His stepfather stood up and went with him.
    I had read an article like this some years back and, while we were there for a routine checkup, I asked the doc if he prescribed contraception for his patients. After he recovered from his shock (our oldest was about 4), he gave what boiled down to the right answer. If there's a problem with a girl's system, he refers them out to a GYN; otherwise, he recommends abstinence. He's a young guy with four daughters. Not Catholic, either; he's Baptist.
    There's hope.

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  17. Unfortunately, this is the sort of things doctors and nurses have been pushed into doing...it's been coming for a long time. And if laws such as FOCA get passed it's only going to get worse.

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  18. This is just as ridiculous as when you're on your second pregnancy and the doctor says, "Are you sure you don't want your tubes tied after the delivery?"

    By the way, there's another good reason not to leave your child alone with a doctor - potential for molestation. Even "nice" "Christian" doctors can have problems.

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  19. That is just so outrageous, but I can certainly believe it nowadays. Hence why my daughter, and my son, will never go unaccompanied into a physican's office, ever. I don't care how much the physician pitches a fit. They are a minor, and therefore my responsibility, until the reach adulthood.

    I am so sorry your sweet daughter had that happen.

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  20. It ought to be a sue-able offense...

    Thank you, Kristine, for calling that doctor and for writing about this.

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