Child Acupuncture: Child Abuse or Malpractice

Issues about proper medical care are quite sensitive–that is particularly true when it comes to children. Young children in need of medical care are at the mercy of their parents, guardians, and adult medical professionals. They are not able to weigh their options and make proper decisions; that role is abdicated to others. For this reason there is significant conflict over medical treatment for youngsters–particularly when that treatment is unorthodox.

One of the most hot-button debates involve therapies like acupuncture for children. The debate about the benefit (or lack thereof) of acupuncture for adults continues to rage, but there is another level of complexity when it comes to acupuncture for children. Believe it or not, it does happen.

A Forbes editorial this week took issue with an article written earlier at the Washington Post which argued that acupuncture is sometimes beneficial for children. The editorial author argues that the use of acupuncture (by a medical doctor) was at best a terrible decision and at worst malpractice.

Some, though a clear minority, doctors claims that various conditions, from asthma and autism to ADHD can be treated in whole or in part by acupuncture. Many disagree, with the author writing: “This is appalling. Sticking needles into a baby has never been shown to have any effectiveness at treating asthma, and we do have treatments that work.”

That is the underlying issue for most opponents: the use of treatments without solid evidence of their benefit. The damage may be very real indeed when those alternative methods are explored as an alternative to other traditional methods that have been proven to work. Some argue that acupuncture is worse than ineffective. Not only is this because it may delay other beneficial treatments, but it may lead to complications. As an invasive procedure there is an actual risk of complications–like the development of infections. Sometimes this is caused by use of needles that are not properly sterilized. However, problems can arise even with sterile needles. That is because infections can arise from bacteria already on the skin which are given the opportunity to enter the body through the puncture wound.

Medical Malpractice?
Practically speaking, legal action against a medical professional recommending alternative therapies like acupuncture for a child’s treatment are unlikely. That is because the suit will have to be filed by the parents of the child. The parents undoubtedly signed off procedure ahead of time. However, that all could change if the medical professional gave misleading information about the efficacy of the treatment or if serious complications develop from the alternative therapy.

In those cases, parents may still file suit on their child’s behalf for the consequences of receiving bad advice or from complications caused by unreasonable conduct.

No matter what, however, this story is a reminder of the importance of active involvement by all patients (or their parents) in the medical process. This is particularly true when it comes to alternative theories that are not based on traditional medical guidelines. Nothing beats full, honest, accurate, and clear information on the pros and cons of every single medical option in front of you.

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