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Posted on March 21st, 2011 by David R. Ford
I spent forty years scribbling the word “adopted” across the medical history form whenever I went to a new doctor. That one word answered all of the questions, but didn’t tell the doctor anything. At least it saved me time, not having to check the boxes that would have said whether either of my birth parents had heart problems, diabetes and the like. And every time I faced those unanswerable questions, the process left me wondering how much what I didn’t know was affecting the quality of the health care I got.
The problem reached its peak for me when, in my 30’s, I began to show the symptoms of a thyroid problem. Because I didn’t have the “4F’s” that doctors sometimes apply in screening for hypothyroidism (I wasn’t “fat, female, fair or forty”), my doctor looked at all sorts of other possible maladies. It was a low point in my life as we waited for days to get the results (negative, thankfully) of tests for a rare, deadly brain tumor. The test (and the stress it caused my wife and me) would have been needless if I’d known my family medical history.
Today, years after finding my birth family, I know that thyroid problems (among others) run in the family. And I am happy to have to spend more time completing the family-history section of medical questionnaires these days.
I am certainly not the only adoptee who has been hurt by not knowing his or her medical history. “Open” adoption practices–granting adoptive families access to key birth information–can greatly improve the welfare of adopted children. It’s hard to believe that some states still have antiquated laws that fail to support open adoption agreements between birth and adoptive parents.