The notion of widespread academic doping worthy of a major media news story sets off my crap detector:
A 15-year-old girl and her parents recently came in for a chat with Dr. James Perrin, a Boston pediatrician, because they were concerned about the girl’s grades. Previously an A student, she was slipping to B’s, and the family was convinced attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was at fault — and that a prescription for Ritalin would boost her brainpower.
After examining the girl, Perrin determined she didn’t have ADHD. The parents, who had come in demanding a prescription, left empty-handed.
Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other physicians say this is an increasingly common scenario in doctors’ offices around the country, though there are no hard statistics on it.
Reading that sends chills through my libertarian spine. I don’t doubt the story, but the preferred triumvirate of politicians everywhere – drugs, children, and fear of an “epidemic” – stands out, waiting for some imbecile in Congress to decide that this is a federal issue rather than a local case of parental and medical ethics gone nuts. The thought of the press conferences alone makes me want to vomit.
“I spoke with [some] colleagues the other day and they mentioned three cases recently where parents blatantly asked for the medication so that their children would perform better in school, yet there were no other indications that the child had ADHD,” says Dr. Nick Yates, a pediatrician and director of medical ethics for Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, N.Y.
Yates isn’t entirely surprised that parents ask for it. He believes that most families simply have a heartfelt — if shockingly misdirected — desire for their children to do their best.
Aside from this likely being overblown, this is where medical doctors must exercise their professional expertise and experience. No doubt some doctors will fall back to a misguided interpretation of “parental choice” and prescribe drugs they know the child does not need and should not have. Most will not, and that should be our assumption. We should not impose draconian policy designed with any notion of doctors being guilty until proven innocence, as much of the drug war is designed. This is disgusting behavior from parents, but it is not a national crisis warranting government intervention.