When the Sign Says "No Parents Allowed"


[Updated 6/6/17]

Perhaps this has happened to you. You walk into the doctor’s or the dentist’s office and you find a sign like the one shown at right. “Parents: Due to new HIPAA and OSHA regulations you are not permitted beyond this point!”

What can you do? And what should you do?

For many, the first response is disbelief, followed by anger. Maybe you’re thinking, as a commenter on our Facebook post of this weekend did, “Whole lotta NOPE going on right here!” But the best response is generally to talk with the staff.

Some practices really do fail to respect the special role parents play in a young patient’s life. But most professionals understand and appreciate what parents bring to the table. (And as another commented, it is often not the doctor but overreaching government that is pushing them to “police” you anyway. The doctor may well be on your side!)

So start with a practice you trust. If you are new to an area, ask around. Go in and “interview” the office. Learn their reputation. Then, as one dental professional suggested, go yourself before you take your child. Were you comfortable enough with them when they cleaned your teeth to let them work on your child as well? (Obviously this advice is of no use in the emergency room, but great for the dentist or family doctor.)

You might assume, as many did when we posted this picture (and as we did ourselves) that the dentist is claiming falsely that new HIPAA guidelines require them to separate parent from child to protect the child’s privacy. What we learned from the West Virginia dentist’s office where this picture was taken, however, was that their office’s open floor plan forces them to balance parental rights against the privacy of the person in the next bay over. Parents, however, are always included in their child’s exam and all decision making. When they saw how their sign was misunderstood, they quickly took it down, and they have assured us that they respect the role of parents with their children.

In the case of Michigan mother Christy Duffy two months ago, it took a public outcry to drive the hospital to back away from its posted policy. In this current case, all it took was a conversation. (The practice also received a good deal of heat from our post, but that proved to be unnecessary.)

So talk to your doctor or dentist. If you see a sign like this one, ask them about it. If it is truly their intention to stand between you and your child, find a new doctor. If it is not, you might graciously suggest they fix their sign. Either way, both your children and our cause will be served best by a polite and civil discourse for as long as that is possible.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

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