A Routine Doctor’s Visit Reveals More Than Expected
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,
“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
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.