What can you do when parents disagree about medical care?

In this case (friends of mine), the mother is undiscriminating about medical care. She forms highly speculative ideas about what might be wrong with children and rushes them to the doctor on any medical concern. She accepts the recommendations of doctors completely uncritically. This has led to situations where the children have been prescribed medicine in an indiscriminate manner. For example, in one case a GP prescribed a powerful anti-protozoan with potentially serious effects without making any diagnosis (a simple urine test had come back negative). The GP stated, "this will clean out the system". We are talking country doctors here.

The father is the exact opposite. His impulse is self-treat and use doctors as a last resort. When going to a doctor he wants a positive and sure diagnosis to be made before drugs are administered, especially potentially dangerous drugs. In many cases he wants second opinions, or to take the children to specialist. So, he is measure nine times before cutting once.

This polarity is causing serious strife and arguments. Worse, the mother is taking the children secretly to doctors and trying to get the children to take medications secretly without the father knowing and tells the children not to tell their father what they are doing. Of course, the children inform him anyway.

I know both of them, but only the father talks to me. I have advised him to just keep trying to negotiate, but I can foresee that the situation could continue to get worse. What advice (other than that already given) should I give?

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    I'm not sure this is on topic. The question is about your relationship with your friends, the parents. You're not acting in loco parentis, it doesn't involve your children or your parents, and the type of advice you're likely to be given will be entirely opinion based. If you can edit the question to make it on-topic (see especially How do I ask a good question? about open-ended questions), please flag it for reopening. Thanks. Mar 17, 2016 at 22:20
  • Half the questions on this site are matters of opinion.
    – Dr. Spock
    Mar 17, 2016 at 22:23
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    Absolutely so. But they are, at least, usually asked by someone directly involved in the decision-making process. If you want to invite the parent himself to ask here, that would be more on-topic (and hopefully not as vague.) Mar 17, 2016 at 22:24
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    I don't see what the difference is between the parents asking the question and myself asking the same question. The question is equally valid in both cases.
    – Dr. Spock
    Mar 17, 2016 at 22:26
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    If the answer is that the parents need to seek counseling to resolve their different viewpoints, it's not a topical question for the site.
    – Acire
    Mar 18, 2016 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


The best thing to do is to stay out of it. The mother is driven by primal urges to protect her young, possibly motivated by fear (for instance, the fear of the guilt of not acting, and then missing a serious problem). She would rather over-treat than risk under-treating.

The father has is on the over-cautious side of normal. His frustration with the mother is understandable.

But here's the thing. Fear responses are very difficult to reason with. Fear is a very, very powerful motivator, and you simply cannot talk other people out of their fears. If the mother is motivated by fear, then there's nothing you can say that will alter her response; she is going to do what she feels she has to do regardless of the consequences (for instance, at the risk of hiding from her husband and bringing significant friction into her marriage).

You could argue that she is causing her children harm, and yet she can counter that she is taking her children to qualified medical professionals.

It's a no-win scenario that these married adults need to sort out themselves.

Unless you are actually one of the children (gotcha!) or actually the husband, then if it was me? I would stay out of it entirely.

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