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Ask Dr. Gott 6/14
Teen is ignored by parents and doctor
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 15-year-old-male. Lately, I have been suffering from a variety of weird symptoms that include prolonged hot flashes, lightheadedness, blurry vision, sore muscles and faintness. These symptoms have been going on for a while now, and, frankly, they have become so bad I can barely function when I'm at work or school. I have informed my parents about this but, unfortunately, they are too docile and mild-mannered to take the "exaggerated" step to actually go to the doctor about it.
I have tried to contact my doctor independently, but the nurses that answer usually start by asking me my age. That leads them to ask for my parents, for apparently they're the ones who should be making decisions about my health and not me. Either way, though, actually getting through to my doctor wouldn't make much of a difference, seeing as her schedule is so screwed up that she is never there when I do get through, and she has yet to return any of my calls.
    I know that something is wrong with me, but I'm having a hard time finding someone who will take me seriously. Is there anything I can do legally to ensure that my health is preserved, despite the ignorance of my parents? What is your take on my symptoms, and what can I do about them?
    DEAR READER: To begin with, you appear extremely articulate and mature, but, like many teens, you have difficulties dealing with your parents. This is your biggest obstacle.
Your parents are otherwise focused on their jobs, have outside activities that take priority, want you to find your own way in the world or are simply ignorant. In any event, I recommend you sit down with them at the dinner table or at a more appropriate time and express your concerns. While I understand you have attempted this in the past, give it one more try. Show them my answer to your questions. If a lack of insurance or money is the issue, you can pay for the visit. If religious beliefs come into play to prevent them from seeking medical attention, an override is in order.
    The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends children between the ages of 13 and 18 be involved in determining their medical care. Parents and physicians should not exclude adolescents from decision-making without justifiable reasons. Some underage patients have specific legal entitlements to either consent to or refuse medical intervention. Physicians should seek parental permission but must focus on the goal of extending care. This is a difficult ethical dilemma.
    If your physician is not in the office regularly and never returns calls, it's time to find someone new.
    If all efforts fail, speak with your school nurse or guidance counselor. He or she can hear your side of the story and get the ball rolling by helping you get the medical help you need and want. If necessary, they may get the Department of Social Services involved.
    I assume you don't have other medical conditions you failed to mention. Can you associate the episodes with skipping meals or something else you may think trivial? You also need a complete examination, including blood work, to determine thyroid, sugar and testosterone levels. Once a diagnosis has been made, you can take steps to correct the condition and eliminate your symptoms. Good luck.

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