Dentist Ties 5-Year-Old to Chair Without Asking Parents' Permission

If you have a dentist phobia, you might want to close this tab and go do something more comforting instead -- watching Marathon Man, for example. If you're not feeling too faint of heart or sensitive of tooth, though, you might at least feel some empathy for a Georgia family who was shocked to find their 5-year-old was restrained on a papoose board for a dental procedure -- without the parents' foreknowledge or consent.


James Crow told TV reports that he and his mother, Evelyn, were waiting for James's daughter Elizabeth to have a tooth pulled at the local dentist's office, Smiles R Us. While the adults were told they weren't allowed in the room during the procedure, they decided that they were going to make themselves allowed when they heard Elizabeth frantically screaming. James headed back to the procedure room to find his terrified daughter strapped into a device called a "papoose board" in order to immobilize her for the dentist.

The dentist's office has stated that all families sign a consent form before a papoose board can be used on their child, but the Crow family says they don't remember being informed about the device. And if the consent form was buried in a stack of other paperwork, who knows whether the consent the Crows or any other family gave was truly informed consent or just another signature in an ocean's worth of ink?

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A papoose board is used for uncooperative patients, which is pretty much the definition of a 5-year-old at the dentist -- especially a 5-year-old who's been separated from her family. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests the papoose board as a solution to uncooperative patients to prevent injury both to the child and the dental staff, as well as to make sure the dental care can actually take place, but points out that restraint can be traumatic if mishandled.

Would having a parent's hand to hold during the procedure have been enough to make a little girl cooperative? Or would having a family member nearby make being put into the papoose board less frightening?

The Crows' case highlights a dual need on trips to the doctor's office: first and foremost, the need for medical professionals who can explain things to laypeople with clarity and compassion. And secondly, especially whenever that first need is lacking, the necessity for parents to ask questions of the doctors and nurses who treat their children. It can be extremely intimidating to push for more information from someone who seems to know so much, but even a doctor who's very skilled at treatment and diagnosis might not be the best at communicating the information you need to know to help make the best decisions for your child. Ask questions, and don't be content to assume it's okay if you don't fully know what's going on. You can trust a doctor's medical expertise while being skeptical of his or her communication skills. When your child is disappearing into another room that you're not allowed to go into, that's a really good time to start asking questions.

Have you ever felt like a doctor was keeping information about your child from you?

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