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Important Medical Decisions Should Never Be Rushed

On August 30th, a front-page article in The Beachcomber reminded our community that the Neighborcare School Based Health Center (SBHC) is now operating at our island schools. This article made it clear that you, as a parent, are encouraged to promptly sign and return legal consent forms which allow your child to be treated at the SBHC.

Do you feel strange about the idea of your child meeting with a brand new doctor by herself? If so, you are not alone. Do you believe a parent’s presence leads to better informed medical decisions, treatment choices and health care outcomes? You’re in very good company. Do you want to know more about this program, before you sign up? Sounds like you’re a typical parent who takes parenting responsibilities seriously.

Unfortunately, the way this new opportunity has been presented to the community creates an undeniable sense of urgency which is entirely unnecessary. Signing legal documents, before you fully understand the ramifications of your decision, is more than unnecessary - it’s literally a form of “uninformed” consent.

Have you ever been in an ambulance or headed to the ER with a life-threatening emergency? Didn’t have time to read the entire release form? I understand. I was in that very situation this past April. Like most people, I scanned the document, asked a couple questions, and then reasonably signed it and crossed my fingers, trusting that I was in the “caring and capable” hands of people committed to “doing their best.”

Starting the school year, on the other hand, is not the same as being rushed to the ER in an ambulance. Unless you’ve struggled to gain medical care for your child (and this new SBHC can help you overcome a critical health burden)…you have time to consider your actions. Plenty of time, in fact, so take it!

After exploring further, parents should obviously feel entirely comfortable accepting, or rejecting, this new option for their child. However, I’d like to ask you to consider the following statement, by Sarah Day: “It is important that we get the paperwork signed,” she said. “We are lucky to have the clinic. Let’s make it successful.”

Hmmm. Since when did it become your responsibility, as a parent, to make this clinic successful? I thought your job was to prepare your child for school, ensure a supportive home environment, and make careful, thought out decisions? As a result of this idea that family participation impacts success of the program, we actually have island parents pressuring other island parents to sign up. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it’s not helpful. So, let me be clear: the success or failure of Neighborcare’s SBHC should never be tied to your medical consent decision as a parent.  

The truth is, you can put this decision on the back burner and wait a few days, a couple weeks, maybe even a month or two. Go ahead and focus on getting your children settled into school and your family schedule evened out. Eventually, things will slow down again and you can devote time to a family discussion. You can also make a few phone calls, read the paperwork carefully, and otherwise get your questions answered. Maybe Timmy and Sarah don’t want to go to the doctor alone? Perhaps your family medical background is complex enough that your presence is absolutely necessary? Or, maybe it’s perfect for you. Maybe you love it!

Whatever the final decision is, make sure that no person, organization or institution is pushing you in one direction or the other. It is both your right, and your responsibility, to know what you are doing when you sign a legal consent form on behalf of your child.

Long story short: When it comes to legal contracts, you deserve to sign on the dotted line with confidence.