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Doctors play an important and broad role in the field of adoption. They are often the first to confirm a pregnancy in a teenager. They also diagnose and treat adopted children as they grow, and attitudes of the physician toward the adopted children are important. Physicians are also critically important in INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION because children who are being adopted from other countries may suffer ailments that are unknown or highly unusual in the United States.

Crisis Pregnancies

Doctors vary widely in their opinions about adoption. As in the society at large, some physicians believe abortion is the best answer to most crisis pregnancies while others believe parenting should be chosen while others are supportive of adoption. Ideally, a physician will present the pros and cons of all the various options and enable a pregnant girl or woman to make her own informed decision.

Physicians are also affected by the attitudes of society at large; for example, if the average person believes an unmarried person should abort before she should consider having a baby and placing it for adoption, physicians too may be influenced by such an attitude.

Teen Pregnancies

Because the physician may be the first adult an adolescent talks to about the pregnancy, the physician's response is very critical, and adoption is one option which should be discussed. To properly discuss adoption with the patient, the physician should be aware of adoption agencies and counseling resources available in the community. Physicians should also be sure to talk to the pregnant adolescent in person rather than over the telephone to ensure privacy. (In some states, privacy rights cover adolescents, and diagnoses of pregnancy or other medical conditions may not be given to individuals other than the minor unless she has given her permission.)

Physicians as Intermediaries

A few physicians actually arrange independent adoptions, particularly physicians who are also obstetricians. They may have patients who are infertile couples and arrange for the woman with the crisis pregnancy to place her child with one of these infertile couples.

Social workers argue that adoption agencies are much better suited to provide objective counseling to a pregnant woman considering adoption for her child than is her physician, whose expertise lies in the medical arena rather than the social work field. (This argument is also advanced against attorneys who are involved with placing children in independent adoptions: social workers assert that lawyers are more qualified at handling legal matters than at counseling adopting parents or birthparents.)

Physicians should repeat information at least several times because if the pregnant woman faces a crisis pregnancy, she may be so anxious that she may have difficulty listening to information.

Adoptive Parents and Physicians

Adoptive parents who are adopting either an infant or older child should talk to the pediatrician they are considering to determine if he or she is generally favorable or neutral about adoption.

Studies of internationally adopted children have revealed that physicians may be unaware of medical problems foreign children may suffer. (See MEDICAL PROBLEMS OF ADOPTED CHILDREN.)

As a result, adopting parents should educate themselves as much as possible about necessary tests and should also seek out a physician at or near a major medical center whenever possible. (See also HOSPITALS' TREATMENT OF BIRTHMOTHERS; INDEPENDENT ADOPTION.)

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