Friday, September 10, 2004

Just say no?

Putting a child on psychiatric medications is one of those topics it's dangerous to bring up in some parenting circles. I've seen flame wars erupt on e-mail lists within a couple of posts of someone tsking about overmedicating and someone else compare withholding Ritalin to withholding insulin. I've generally tried to steer away from too much preaching on the subject here, because although I have strong opinions, I also acknowledge that they may apply only to my particular kids and family and everyone's mileage may vary. But what, now, do we think about this: In the name of scientific research and building a better ADHD cure, a "pediatrics ethics subcommittee" of the FDA has given the thumbs-up to the idea of giving stimulants to healthy children with no particular need for them, just to compare their reaction to children who are suffering from hyperactivity. The upside is that the kids will be paid handsomely for the temporary use of their nervous systems -- $570 for 11 hours; the downside, the possibility that that nervous system might not be quite as healthy upon its return. Certainly, it's distressing that children are being prescribed medications for which no research has been done in terms of safety and effectiveness for little ones, and maybe that research needs an unaffected control group to work. But it's also distressing to use healthy kids as human guinea pigs. Would you sign your kid up for this? Would you ask other people to, if it would benefit your child? And is there any way in which this can be considered ethical?

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