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[IP] Recognizing that, often, parents do know best

s+do+know+best&template=show_article.jsp">Editorial: Recognizing that, often,
parents do know best</A>


Recognizing that, often, parents do know best
I've been on service this month caring for hospitalized patients and, once
again, I'm reminded that managing illness in children isn't as straightforward
as it used to be. I don't mean simply that our enhanced knowledge of treatment
options makes it more difficult to keep up, although that certainly is true.
No, I'm referring to the complexity that results when parents are
and confident enough to ask questions of us and want to understand the
decisions we are making about their child's care. The world was, frankly,
when parents accepted what their physician told them (assuming that we knew
there was to know about their child's illness and how to treat it).

Parents now have access to the Web-based information that their child's
physicians do. In addition, direct-to-consumer advertising prompts the
viewer every 12 minutes to "ask your doctor if [insert name of product] is
right for you." National news magazines and newspapers recognize the public's
fascination with medical research and new treatments. Even stock market news
frequent reference to developments in medical science that are expected to
change the management of disease.

It's difficult not to react to parents' questioning as though this somehow
represents a challenge to our knowledge, experience, and training. And it is
curious that we encourage them to become involved in other aspects of their
child's lifebschool, friendships, athleticsbeven though we aren't always
so sure
we want to hear their ideas and opinions when it comes to medical care. The
truth is that, no matter how intelligent and well-informed parents may be,
who aren't health-care professionals are unlikely to understand complex
medical issues, and it takes time to explainbgiven that the information they
is incompletebhow and why we make our decisions.

Yet it's in reviewing options and explaining disease processes to parents
that I often find myself considering valid alternatives for managing their
child's condition. I realize then that parents aren't really thinking "outside
box" at those times so much as exploring a part of the box that I had
to consider.

Parents are, in fact, essential to our management of their child's health and
medical problems. Our knowledge and experience is useless if parents don't
give the medications we prescribe, feed the diets we recommend, and consult
specialists to whom we refer. As this month goes on, I'll try to remember that
well-informed parents are likely to ask important questions; that including
them in medical decision making helps guarantee their cooperation in carrying
out the treatments that webmutuallybhave agreed on; and that, in trying to
answer their questions, I'm likely to learn something.

Julia A. McMillan, MD, editor-in-chief of Contemporary Pediatrics, is
professor of pediatrics, vice chair for pediatric education, and director of
residency training program, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine,


Julia McMillan. Editorial: Recognizing that, often, parents do know best.
Contemporary Pediatrics August 2003;20:9.

Copyright B) 2003 and published by Medical Economics Company at Montvale, NJ
07645-1742. All rights reserved.
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