Should Teens Have Confidential Time With the Doctor?


The teenage years are a difficult time of transition from childhood to adult. Physical and emotional changes occur rapidly and many teens suffer from lack of self-confidence and insecurity. This is nothing new; indeed it has been happening since man first inhabited the world.

But now there is a push from some to allow teens the privacy of confronting these issues with their doctor – without a parent in attendance. In an age when schools can’t give an aspirin to a child without parental permission, this is a radical change.

Brianna Abbott, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says, “Adolescent-health experts and doctors are stepping up efforts to increase teenagers’ access to confidential health care and help them develop skills to navigate their own health care. Groups such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others have long pushed for adolescents to have individual time with their doctors, but these recommendations are unevenly practiced, pediatricians and adolescent-medicine specialists say.”

Abbott describes how this works: “When Hannah Regan was about 14 years old, her family doctor in Kentucky started a new routine. During checkups, the doctor would ask Hannah’s mother to briefly step out of the exam room, Then, in private, Hannah would discuss a questionnaire she filled out about smoking, drinking, mental health and other sensitive issues. There were awkward moments, she says, but she appreciated the time alone with her doctor.”

The implication of this change is that doctors know what’s best for your son or daughter and you should trust them to steer your child in the right direction – both medically and morally. The authority for this change comes from academic medical institutions such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

As a parent, should you support this change? Can you trust your child’s physician to share your moral convictions? The answer should be a firm No!

The American Medical Association (AMA) was the largest organization of physicians in the United States when I became a doctor forty years ago. I trusted they would represent the best medical opinions and share my moral convictions regarding medical treatments. I was wrong.

I soon learned the AMA supported abortions and organizations like Planned Parenthood that provided abortions. They encouraged homosexuality even though the homosexual community was being devastated by the AIDS epidemic. They promoted condoms for prevention of sexually transmitted disease but never suggested abstinence outside of marriage would be more effective. They chose the path of political correctness rather than suggest any sort of moral convictions. (Today the AMA represents only about one in four American doctors.)

These are the same people who want you to trust them to provide your teenager with the best medical and moral advice. You cannot trust them to suggest abstinence from sexual activity when a birth control pill will prevent the only medical problem they’re concerned about. You cannot believe they will object to things like alcohol, marijuana, or other substance abuses except in excesses that will cause obvious harm to their health. Doctors are much more tuned in to disease treatment than prevention.

Parents who are willing to cooperate in this push for teen confidentiality are abdicating their parental responsibility. It may be much easier for them to let the doctor talk about sensitive issues but the result may not be what they expect.  Doctors can’t be expected to be parents. They especially can’t be expected to keep secrets from parents that may impact the health of their child. Parenting is a tough job – but no one else should be asked to fill your shoes. Take the time to really be a parent. If your teenager has more trust in the doctor than you, you’ve got work to do!