Hypocrisy in health
Last week, I received my first flu shot and was surprised by how easy it was. I walked in, filled out the forms, waited for my turn and then was administered the vaccine. All in all, it took approximately 20 minutes from the time I entered Student Health Services. But what was interesting about this experience, more so than the fact that I was getting my first flu shot ever, was the complete lack of attention to the fact that, at 17 years old, I am a minor.
Normally, the fact that I am younger than most people here doesn’t affect me at all. It’s always a bit of a surprise when people hear I won’t turn 18 for another few weeks, but they get over it. The only time my age became an issue was when I attempted to get checked out at SHS.
Earlier this year, I developed a bad cold. My head was hurting, my throat was sore and achy, and I had the chills often associated with fever. After a few days of hoping it would go away, I dragged myself to the health center to get myself checked out. While the staff at the health center let me make an appointment and led me to a room without any mention of my age, it was only after I had been waiting for a little while that someone stopped by to confirm my minor status. And subsequently told me they had to track down my mom and get her permission in order to examine me.
I was confused. So I can legally drive, move almost 900 miles away from home by myself and get a flu shot with potentially serious reactions, but I can’t have someone look at my throat without phoning my mom? That doesn’t seem to make sense.
If we compare the flu shot and its potential dangers side by side with a typical doctor’s visit, it would seem easy to determine which is more likely to require parental permission. At a doctor’s appointment, someone comes in and checks your temperature, nose, throat and ears and feels your glands to determine if you are potentially sick. The most dangerous thing they’ll probably do is swab the back of your throat for a strep test or perhaps refer you for further testing, which, although possibly painful, is not really all that hazardous. The sheet that I received with my registration form for my flu shot, however, came with a list of potential reactions, including soreness/swelling, fever, aches and itching. In some rare cases, it can even cause a serious allergic reaction.
If someone’s status as a minor requires special treatment, it should be the same across the board. If the law requires parental permission for minors to have any medical treatment, the least that could happen is that the practice not be stricter in some areas than in others. Or perhaps parents acknowledging that their child is capable of making medical decisions for him- or herself could sign a blanket waiver. Either way, the system as it stands right now is uneven and perhaps even a bit hypocritical. Wash. U. makes a big deal out of treating its students like adults, and yet the idea that someone perhaps a little younger than the rest of the students cannot get their cold checked out without parental permission is a bit ludicrous. Then again, perhaps it makes more sense to allow students to expose themselves to a potentially dangerous allergic reaction than get their throats swabbed.
Let’s fix that.