OCD and Medical Child Abuse

stock images from freedigitalphotos.net

stock images from freedigitalphotos.net

If you’ve read my book, you know that many issues arose when my son Dan spent nine weeks at a residential treatment center for OCD. There’s no question the staff there knew how to treat OCD. What they didn’t know, and what they couldn’t know, was my son: his hopes, his dreams, his values, HIM. Instead of working together with the staff to figure out the best course of action for Dan, my husband and I felt not only shut out, but also viewed as part of the problem.

So when Dr. Suzanne Phillips, who recently interviewed me and Seth about our book,  sent me a New York Times article entitled The New Child Abuse Panic, I broke out in a sweat as I read it. This could have been us.

I highly recommend reading this important article, which discusses how parents are increasingly being charged with “medical child abuse.” The author, Maxine Eichner, says:

 Although most of these cases have nothing to do with real child abuse, credulous child welfare officials have too often supported the doctors, threatened parents with loss of custody, and even removed kids from their homes — simply because the parents disagreed with the doctor’s plan of care.

The most widely publicized case, which is discussed in The New York Times article, involved that of Justina Pelletier, a teenager who was being treated for mitochondrial disease. Her parents lost custody of her and she was forcibly removed from her home for sixteen months because some doctors disagreed with the diagnosis, which was later confirmed. I remember hearing her story on the news a couple of years ago, and thought I must have misunderstood it. Taken away from her family because some doctors disagreed with care she was receiving from other doctors? It made no sense. But it was true, and it is even more of an issue now. It is a scary situation for parents and caregivers.

So what do we do? In relation to obsessive-compulsive disorder, I think education continues to be the key. Many people still believe OCD is only about germs, hand-washing, and rigidity. As most of us know, in actuality there is no limit to the ways OCD can present itself. We shouldn’t have to convince professionals that fear of hurting a loved one, fear of offending God, fear of taking a test, or avoidance of just about anything, are just a few of the countless symptoms of OCD.

As parents and caregivers, we need to educate ourselves and others. We need to treat medical professionals with respect and expect the same in return. If we ever feel threatened in any way, we need to seek out appropriate support immediately. We need to realize that while there are many caring, qualified professionals out there, there are also those who are misguided. And as I’ve said before, nobody knows our loved ones, cares about them, or wants them to get well, more than we do. That alone is reason enough to be heard.

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8 Responses to OCD and Medical Child Abuse

  1. Brenda says:

    My son was also sent to a OCD Residential Center—that had in their “Mission Statement” that they collaborate with the patient, families, and doctors in the care of their patients!! That did not happen for us, just like you, I felt that our thoughts did not matter, our son’s thoughts did not matter, only their thoughts on our son was considered! This was a devastating experience for our whole family, and everyone who had gone to great effort to get my son the help he needed. He was only there for three weeks, and was sent home against all our wishes, he didn’t get the right care at all, he has severe ocd, and medication did not help him at all. Only one person seemed to listen to me, and felt he should stay, but, that wasn’t considered either. My heart really goes out to all of the families with this unfortunate disorder, finding the right help is next to impossible, and even if you do, they don’t take insurance in a lot of cases, and the cost is huge!! Because medication did not work for my son, he really couldn’t do some of the things they requested, so they took it as he wouldn’t do it?? And, I feel that if he had the right person, he could do it. But, then again, who am I, I am just his mother!!

    • Hi Brenda, It’s good to hear from you again, and I know we’ve talked about these issues you and your son faced. I can just feel your frustration and I agree with you that it is a huge problem….it’s not “us” as there are too many people with the same complaints. I hope you’ve been able to find some help and support for your son. I’ll keep you both in my thoughts.

  2. Brenda says:

    Thank you so much, for all you do Janet!
    Sorry about the lil’ rant, and yes I am very frustrated, the impact of poor decisions by people of power can be overwhelming. and cost lives! The young lady in the story almost lost her life, because of the power struggle between two groups of people, one group was clearly abusing their power!
    My son is not doing too well, looking for help is really difficult being as there are very few people where we are that can help. And the one or two that can, only treat children, and only accept cash payments?? New Trend I guess!!
    Anyway—Thanks for listening Janet, just being here for all of us, is a Great Help!!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Brenda, and no need to apologize. I totally understand! Our health-care system needs a major overhaul, no question about it. I will keep you and your son in my thoughts and let you know if I hear of any new treatment options in your area. Have you (with your son) tried any of the OCD workbooks on your own?

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