The New York Times has an interesting column about a common dilemma faced by doctors: What to do when children tell secrets to a physician and beg the adult not to tell their parents?
I’m not talking about the child who tells you something that makes it clear he’s in danger. Those are the “easy” ones (though in another sense they can be tremendously difficult), and I’ve had my share: The 13-year-old girl who is frightened of a much older guy who sometimes seems to follow her home. The 14-year-old boy who has been thinking about dying a lot ever since his grandmother died. The seventh grader who is being beaten up on the playground. No matter the age, when I feel the child is actually in danger, I explain that I have to let the parents know.
But as I talked to my colleagues — including my son’s pediatrician, Dr. Herbert Lazarus — we all kept coming up with ambiguous cases. Because you do value the child’s trust, and you don’t want to lose it.