Adoptees and Medical History

Lily Tomlin playing Edith Ann on Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh In.”
If Edith Ann were and adoptee, she wouldn’t know her medical history.

Closed records hide medical history

Adult adoptees often don’t know their medical history. Treated as perpetual children, in most U.S. states they have no access to their medical histories. Why? Because their adoption records are sealed. Therefore, they don’t know who their biological parents are. Imagine going to the doctor and filling out that sheaf of forms by simply scrawling across the top “unknown.”

Adult adoptees need their medical history

A few months back the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement regarding adoption records.  Therefore, the Academy is aware that adoptees don’t know their medical history. They say they want adoption records to be unsealed. Well, sort of. Their recommendation contains the caveat “unless specifically denied by the birthparents.” I’m a birthmother, not an adoptee, but I’m pretty sure many adoptees viewed this as only a partial victory.

Pointedly, it was the American Academy of Pediatrics that came forward to voice their support for open records. Not the American Medical Association. Doesn’t the silence of the A.M.A. perpetuate society’s view of adult adoptees as children? And as a person grows older, doesn’t medical history become even more important?

When I was searching for my son I contacted the agency in Iowa that had handled the adoption, and I petitioned the court. I asked both entities to forward vital medical history to my son, who was 20 years old. But I got nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.

2 thoughts on “Adoptees and Medical History

  1. Pamela Hasegawa

    You wrote,

    “A few months back the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement regarding adoption records. It’s not unequivocal good news since it contains the caveat “unless specifically denied by the birthparents.”

    Here is the link I found when researching AAP’s statement of endorsement of the policy statement of the National Center on Adoption.

    “The National Adoption Center believes it is an inalienable right of all citizens, including adopted adults, to have unencumbered access to their original birth certificates. In keeping with this position, we believe that copies of both the original and amended birth certificate should be given to the adoptive family at the times of finalization unless specifically denied by the birth parents. In any case, the National Adoption Center advocates that the adoptee, at age 18, be granted access to his/her original birth certificate.


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