When you can be arrested for letting your children go to the park alone, we might be a little hyper-vigilant, yet on the other side multiple times per week there is indignation that child protective services failed to stop some idiot parents who were harming a child. It may be the precautionary principle run amok but doctors and government workers are the people who will be sued if they are not going overboard looking for problems.
At Free-Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy critiques a New York Times article discussing what has been termed medical child abuse - looking for a doctor until a parent finds one that will treat a child for a condition only the parent thinks they have. One well-known example is a mother and father who believed their child had mitochondrial disease, a devastating condition where the energy factories in cells don't function properly. Though science confirmed the child had the condition, the girl spent 16 months in state custody and her parents were treated like criminals before it was resolved.
At our American Council on Science and Health editorial meeting, we wondered whether or not to cover the issue, because it is so rare. A few of us invoked movie "The Sixth Sense", where a sociopathic mother was poisoning her child so she would have someone to treat, and Skenazy thinks that some doctors and some policy makers visualize the scene in that film every time a concerned parent wants a second opinion. She wants society to stop finding scary narratives about kids everywhere the same way we want environmental groups to stop treating all of us like children who need a corporate fundraising savior like NRDC.
We've seen over-pathologizing of people before. Yesterday we had an article here on implanted abuse memories - which became well-known in the 1980s. But is it common? Well, no, that is why it gets so much attention in fiction. To-date, no one has actually had repressed memories of their parents running a Satanic cult, even though it is a famous case of wacko psychotherapy causing a person to believe it.
Like unethical therapists desperate to become famous for a case study, environmental groups are implanting false memories all of the time. They seek to create a nocebo and convince society that if they give up something, they will feel better. Environmental Working Group is doing that about crayons, claiming that your kids might get mesothelioma from that box of Crayola (so you'd better send EWG money, or else). Environmental Health News is trying to claim that BPA is changing the genes in the uterus of women.
Medical child abuse by parents is very rare, but environmental news abuse by fundraising groups happens all of the time.
Medical Child Abuse Or Desperate Parents?