With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

29 April 2013

Can Caregiver Mishandling of Food Allergies Equal Medical Neglect?

Did you know April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month? One form of abuse which is not as frequently discussed is medical neglect. In defining medical neglect, the American Human Association states the following (emphasis added by me):
"Medical neglect is the failure to provide appropriate health care for a child (although financially able to do so), thus placing the child at risk of being seriously disabled or disfigured or dying. According to NCANDS, in 2005, 2 percent of children (17,637 children) in the United States were victims of medical neglect (USDHHS, 2007). Concern is warranted not only when a parent refuses medical care for a child in an emergency or for an acute illness, but also when a parent ignores medical recommendations for a child with a treatable chronic disease or disability, resulting in frequent hospitalizations or significant deterioration."
I think life threatening food allergies qualify as a "chronic disease or disability". Now, I know I am stepping into a controversial area with the following questions, but I think this is a topic that warrants discussion. What about caregivers--parents, other relatives, teachers, whoever--who purposefully expose children to their known allergens?? To be clear, I'm not referring to parents who've enrolled their children in oral immunotherapy treatment. I'm talking about caregivers who have been informed that a child has a life threatening food allergy and knowingly expose the child to the allergen. Likewise, what about a caregiver who repeatedly does not keep a child's prescribed epinephrine injectors on hand, despite the doctor's instructions?
What is your opinion? What about these sorts of mistreatment? Where is the line between "mistakes" and "carelessness" and "neglect" when it comes to managing a child's food allergies?


Courtney J said...

I am so glad this topic was brought up. A mistake to me usually comes when people don't grasp the food allergy situation i.e- milk and chocolate. nuts and chocolate, cross contamination. Carelessness and neglect come from those who don't care. Carlessness is the Mom who knowingly does it anyway because she doesn't think food allergies are that big of a deal (I'm sure we've all met one of these horrid folks) and neglect comes when that teacher doesn't listen to the health care plan of the child with food allergies. I personally feel that if my child is injured due to someone's wreckless behavior in regards to her health, I should be able to persue action. I have heard and read horror stories of lives being lost, or long hospital stays due to someone's negligence.

andrea said...

My childrens father&his fiance routinely make them ill by exposing them to their allergens and so far the judicial system won't do anything but reprimand him.I'll keep trying to get them to do something.

Anonymous said...

My son's father repeatedly exposed him to his allergens, resulting in several ER trips due to severe reactions/anaphylaxis. I finally was able to get an emergency hearing in court (6 weeks after filing...). The judge seemed to take the issue seriously at first, but then asked him to name 5 foods my son can/can't eat. He was able to answer them all accurately despite his prior actions. Finally, after failing a drug test, he was ordered to supervised visits. Subsequently by his choice, he hasn't seen my son in 15 months. If it hadn't been for the drug test failure, I don't think any consequences would've come from the medical neglect.
At this point, at least my son is safe now.

h said...

I've come across several situations where I heard of parents intentionally feeding their children allergens. From a legal standpoint it depends on the jurisdiction but it certainly can rise to neglect to not comply with medical mandates. I think you'd have to show most likely a real pattern of doing something, though. And frankly when it comes to parents and children the courts are very deferential. I've seen horrible cases (not FA related or anything) where parental rights aren't terminated even though there are strong arguments for doing so. Constitutional rights get tied up so much in the right to parent, etc. I do think it is a good discussion to have, would a teacher for example be obligated to report a parent that was feeding a child their allergen repeatedly? There's no clear line though I would hope all children can be nourished safely. Great submission for the blog carnival, by the way!