An ethical conflict between parents and clinician in a child with a language delay

Vidya Bhushan Gupta, Jeffrey P Brosco, Nidhip Patel, Adam Braddock, Martin T. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


CASE: A developmental-behavioral pediatrician evaluated a 2-year-old child for developmental delays. He determined that the child had mild expressive language delays; the child had an intelligible vocabulary of 20 words and at least 20 other words that he said unclearly. He said a few contracted 2-word phrases, such as "gimme" and "its ok." He was shy and generally clung to his parents who spoke softly and very little. His development in all other domains was normal. Hearing evaluation and the neurological examination were normal. The pediatrician provided suggestions to the parents in order to stimulate language and scheduled a follow-up appointment in 3 months. The parents asked him to refer the child for early intervention and write a letter to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. They asked that the letter state that the child had a disabling condition and returning the child and his family to their country of origin would cause permanent harm to the child. The parents then gave the pediatrician a draft of a letter that had been prepared by an immigration lawyer. The physician explained to the parents that the child had a mild expressive language delay and that he would like to see the child again in 3 months before deciding on early intervention. He advised them to obtain a copy of his medical note from the medical records department. The parents insisted that he write the letter and got upset and called him "heartless" when the physician refused to write the letter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S66-S68
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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