Medical History

My doctor uses a computer to keep track of almost everything about me. At each appointment he enters new information and updates existing information. A complete history of my test results, medications, and weight (don’t ask about that irritating graph that we review at each visit) is stored in his computer system.

At a recent visit we were discussing a certain issue and, speculating on whether or not it could be hereditary, he asked me what my family history. That can be a loaded question for an adoptee – the answer is rarely simple.

In the past I confess that I have not always been truthful with my response. When I was younger I found it easier to answer according to the history of my adoptive family; I found it hard to admit that I had no idea of what my family history looked like.

For a season, I simply said that I had no idea what my medical history was because I had been adopted as an infant.

In time, as I learned more about my birth family, I was able to provide a snippet of information here and there on certain issues.

I noticed something interesting on my doctor’s computer screen the other day. Part way down the screen where my medical information displays is a simple little check box with the word “Adopted” next to it. I assume, as more adopted adults have begun to open up about their adopted state, the medical community realized that we deserved a category of our own to explain the gaps or absence of a medical history. That’s progress, right?

I read an encouraging report from the Adoption Institute today published by Dr. Jeanne A. Howard, Susan Livingston Smith and Georgia Deoudes. The report, published in July 2010, examines the issue of adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates; it is a “must read” with excellent recommendations.

I loved the last paragraph the most (highlight mine):

“Wherever one stands, this much is clear: The laws on the books in most states do not benefit the vast majority of the affected parties, and therefore should be changed. Modern adoption practice, with its emphasis on openness, honesty and family connections should be the operating model. It is time to end the secrecy that has not only resulted in shame and stigma for nearly everyone concerned, but also has undermined the institution itself by sending a signal from the very start – at the time a birth certificate is issued – that adoption has something to hide.”

Amen, and amen.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. Wow– that would change so much!

  2. I have an adopted son whom we adopted as a newborn. What’s most interesting is that I know more about his biological background than I do of my own – a nonadopted person!

    Both of my parents were Holocaust survivors and both died relatively young by today’s standards. It was only recently as a doctor’s appointment, answering numerous question with “I don’t know” when the nurse asked me, “Well, were you adopted?”

    Although I was not, it’s very unnerving to have almost no knowlege of one’s background, origins, genetics. I make a point of telling my son, now 21, about any information we have.

    1. That is fascinating, Marlene. You understand how many adoptees must feel.

  3. Based on your experience with your doctor, Linda, it seems doctors are starting to understand the adoptee’s odd situation. That’s progress. In the past, I’ve had awkward moments telling doctors I know nothing about my medical history. Just this year I learned a bit about my birth mother’s health. It’s great to have that information.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.