Parents need a doctor who shares their values.
I used to believe we should leave medicine to the doctors and faith to the Church. I didn’t really understand that my pediatrician would become a personal mentor for me as I navigated parenthood. I didn’t consider that my pediatrician would become a private confidant of my children, discussing sensitive issues behind closed doors. And then I became a pediatrician.
I’ve spent the past 11 years practicing pediatrics and I remain more convinced than ever that everyone needs a pediatrician who shares their parenting values. Here are seven reasons why you need a Catholic health care provider for your children, and why I started a not-for-profit directory to help you find these providers at CatholicPediatrics.
1. Families need Catholic pediatric health care providers who will mentor and support them as they seek to build the domestic church and raise healthy children. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find Catholic health care providers who practice in accordance with traditional Catholic teachings. There are several not-for-profit online directories to help you find a Catholic doctor, including The Catholic Medical Association, One More Soul, and CatholicPediatrics. WellCatholic is a new for-profit online directory.
2. Most pediatric medical problems, from constipation to leukemia, require both sound medical care and a strong spirit to overcome. Your health care will be incomplete if your physician prescribes treatment but cannot help you approach medical challenges with a faith-filled spirit.
3. Catholic Hospital Systems don’t always provide Catholic health care. Just because a health care provider works for a Catholic hospital or institution does not mean that they are Catholic or that they practice in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. One study found that 48 percent of Catholic hospitals have performed and billed for direct sterilizations. I suspect the number is actually much higher. Many Catholic hospitals have started off-site affiliated facilities that are not under the jurisdiction of the Catholic church, such as off-site surgical centers for sterilization, and off-site primary care practices that provide “family planning” or “adolescent medicine.” Additionally, Catholic hospitals have no way to regulate what a physician says to a patient behind a closed door. Any provider can counsel your child with values other than your own, and you have no recourse or control.
4. Jesus was a healer. Don’t you want a healer who follows Jesus? Never under-estimate the power of God to heal, even through modern medicine. I believe health care providers need to be praying for the strength and guidance of God that the care they provide will be healing and bring glory to God. You need a physician who is praying for God’s guidance as he or she cares for your child.
5. The United States government is quickly stripping rights away from parents and shortening childhood. In some states, parents cannot have access to your child’s medical records after age 12. In most states, health care providers can prescribe medications including contraceptives to children 14 and older, and providers can withhold that information from parents. You will send your pre-teen and teen into exam rooms with closed doors and allow your child to talk to providers about controversial issues. You will not have any ability to discover what is said and prescribed behind those closed doors. You need a pediatric health care provider who shares your faith and values.
6. There is nothing like parenthood to improve humility. From breastfeeding and newborn care to adolescent drug abuse and sexuality, every step of parenthood is fraught with challenges and failures. Parenthood can be humiliating. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Humiliation is good for humility.” You need a health care provider who will help you learn and grow in your faith through the challenges of parenthood.
7. It is futile to heal the body and not the soul. Through the sacrifices of parenthood and the suffering of physical illness, our souls can be healed. When we accept parenting and health challenges with faith, we can more fully appreciate the sacrifices that God, our father and parent, makes for us every day.
Kathleen M. Berchelmann, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a mother of five young children. Connect with Dr. Berchelmann at KathleenBerchelmannMD.com.