The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, says her son was shocked and her husband appalled when the GP asked the husband to leave so he could ask the boy what she described as “totally inappropriate” questions.
“The health issue was regarding a personal area, so we thought it was just carrying on about that,” she said.
The GP was following a protocol dubbed a HEEADSSS assessment – which stands for Home environment, Education and employment, Eating, peer-related Activities, Drugs, Sexuality, Suicide/depression and Safety from injury and violence. It is used as a tool to screen youth who may be at risk.
The boy had previously had trouble sleeping and didn’t like crowds, but his mother is questioning whether the topics covered were appropriate.
“Why do they have to sexualise our children? Why did we not have this topic discussed with us before we consented? We had a right to know.”
Her complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner was unsuccessful on the basis that the boy’s father had given permission. However, she said he would never have consented had he known what his son was going to be asked.
“We felt violated. The doctor had gone into areas of his life that he should not have gone into. Certainly not without the consent of his dad.
“There are some 12-year-olds having sex, but some of us choose not to sexualise our children. We want children to be children and their innocence to be there.”
Youthline’s Stephen Bell said that although it’s ideal to have families on board, sometimes they can be a risk.
Youthline, a counselling service for youth, uses the HEEADSSS assessment as a guideline to understand what’s happening with a young person. It’s not necessarily done in the first meeting, said Bell, and is about pacing and matching where the young person is.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners said HEEADSSS is a good example of a screening tool.
“The college does not explicitly endorse many screening tools [aside from the ABC alcohol screening tool] and our expectation is that if a doctor chooses to use a screening tool they need to make sure it is relevant, used appropriately and its use is supported by evidence,” a spokesperson said.
A guideline to the assessment recommends parents do not sit in because it can limit how much sensitive information the patient will provide.
Comments by Bob McCoskrie of Family First New Zealand:
The problem with the programme and the attitude from groups like Youthline is the basic presumption that children and young people need to be fully aware of every adult concept that we can throw at them, and parents are one of the biggest barriers to young people developing the way they need to. That is completely false. It also continues the ‘war’ on parents in terms of telling parents how to raise and discipline their children, the ‘rights of children’ taking precedence over the important role of parents, parental notification laws for teen abortions, and ‘confidentiality’ being used because of the perceived ‘risk’ of parents.
This programme may be warranted and necessary for a family where it’s known that the parents are dysfunctional and the child are at-risk, but in the case of this family, that was not the case.
Any parents of a 12 year old would be horrified by being excluded from this process involving invasive questions such as ‘have you had obsessions about sex, does homeschooling teach you anything about sex, have you had sex and be sure to always do it with someone you love.’
Questions in the guideline also include “are your sexual activities enjoyable?, how many sexual partners have you had?” Even the questions around depression and suicide may be inappropriate and not suitable for certain ages.
It’s also contrary to guidelines. Under the Health Information Privacy Code parents do have a right of access to their children’s health information as long as the child is under 16.
Updated 1 October 2014: Three years on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here
Needing help for your home schooling journey:
Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:
Information on getting started: https://hef.org.nz/
Information on getting an exemption: https://hef.org.nz/
This link is motivational: http://hef.org.
Exemption Form online: https://hef.org.nz/