Fellow readers: I've been one of you for 16 years and finally find myself writing to you. This is about the custody-case piece in the Feb. 24 Mountain Xpress. Actually, it's about health care and government in general.
The coverage of Ryan's custody experience brought to the fore a complex issue that is deeply disturbing to me. First, I want to say that the article will undoubtedly bring harsh criticism of DSS. Nelda Holder, the author of the article, did a great job in framing the issue fairly, and repeatedly reminded readers that much of the pertinent information about the case is confidential. Thus, we are left to color the gray areas of the story with our own biases. I expect to read letters from my fellow readers dissing DSS.
But I don't think it's DSS that is to blame here. What squeaks through the narrow chute of allowable information here, for me, is that our health-care system and federal government have institutionalized codependency. What I mean by this is that any person who asserts herself by actively and vocally "managing" the health of herself or her dependent is ultimately labeled "psychotic," and there is no dearth of labels here. Call it Munchausen by proxy, call it negligence, call it what you will — but this calls out the "authority" of those placing blame.
Ms. Baldwin, Ryan's mother, actively sought medical help for her son. However, she did not always toe the line of medical authorities, and she lost her son for some time because of this. She was chastised.
In codependent relationships, self-assertion cannot exist. When it raises its fierce head, the whole relationship is thrown into turmoil. This is the real problem of our health-care system. Our modern medical establishment is constructed upon the top-down idea of the doctor as an all-knowing authority and the patient as ignorant [and] subservient. Witness the ruling judge's comments in the Baldwin case.
If a person can be convicted for "lacking a primary caregiver," I should have been taken out of custody of myself long ago. I see a dentist because I cannot clean my own teeth. I see a gynecologist because I cannot do as good of a job as she does. Other than that, I take care of myself. I actively take care of myself. At times, my personal, intimate wisdom of my body may advise me to disregard the advice of a "medical professional," even acting contrary to their advice.
Should I be penalized for this? Should I be put into the custody of an "all-knowing, all-loving" entity like the federal government? Oh, right, I'm over 18 … never mind. While I simply want to whisper "beware," I will instead remind us to cultivate ourselves, nourish our strength as individuals and stand up against a silent tyranny of institutionalized medical codependency.
— Amy Hamilton