Thursday, November 13, 2008

Munchausen by Proxy

You’ve heard of it, right? That woman who killed her daughter in the movie, “The Sixth Sense” had it. And it’s been featured on the primetime crime dramas. It’s always some freaky mom who is poisoning her own kid because she somehow gets some much-craved attention from the doctors when she takes her child to the hospital. I know some allergy parents and (at least one parent of a kid with a different issue) who have been accused of it by family members. Now I know someone whose kids have been removed by social services because of it. In fact, I actually know TWO people who’ve had kids removed because of it.

Problem? It’s pretty much been discredited as a disease. Other problem? If you go to the effort to learn about your child’s health issues you just might be accused of it, too.

My own theory is that the medical professionals haven’t quite caught up to the fact that parents are researching their children’s health issues, disorders, diseases and nutrition on the internet. I’ve had doctors comment to me that I “shouldn’t” look stuff up on the Internet. However, our pediatrician had no idea that you could use block feeding to remedy oversupply (breastfeeding), which she herself had! So how did I know that? Bingo. The Internet.

When Wee Laddie was diagnosed with his food allergies, I immediately went to the Internet. Why? Because the doctors don’t have (or don’t take) enough time to really explain this stuff to you. I mean, I had no idea what our Epipen protocol even was. I had no idea I needed an Epipen protocol. (I still need to write one down--shhh! don't tell my allergy mom friends--but I’ve at least got one in my head now.) A month after the diagnosis, I was able to discuss that with the allergy doc, but only because I’d learned, on the Internet, that it was something I needed to do. And it only came up because I asked. Did the allergist say, “Do you feel comfortable about knowing when to use Epipen?” Nope. Should he have? Probably. I mean, my kid's life could depend on it. (And I should mention here that I really like our allergist and feel that he’s well-informed and a very good allergist. But still, I could teach him a thing or two about what a new allergy mom needs to know.)

So wake up, medical community. This is the information age. If I want to learn about IgA deficiency for a blood donation (which I did recently), I don’t even have to drag my butt to the library. All I have to do is a quick Google search & I’ve got pages & pages of information at my fingertips. If that is threatening to you… then you either need to step up and stay on top of the medical information that’s available to you, or you need to accept that some of your patients (or their parents) are going to care enough to take the time to research stuff themselves. That doesn’t mean they’re fixating (in an unhealthy way) on their child’s health. It means they are being responsible parents and exploring every possible avenue to help their children survive and thrive.

And, frankly, Doctor, doesn’t that actually make your job a little easier??