February 3rd, 2013


being the foster child of one’s doctor

Setting: Boston (Massachusetts, US-ish) area, contemporary

I’m trying to plot a novel in which Our Heroine, a pregnant teenager, unwittingly crosses into an alternate universe, gets hit by a car, and is taken to the hospital with a head injury. When she regains consciousness and at least part of her memory, she can’t answer some of the questions on the mental-status exam, because, for example, she doesn’t know the name of the country she’s in; as a result, she is transferred to a psychiatric ward for evaluation. Because of the pregnancy, the psychiatrist is leery of giving her antipsychotics, but aside from that, she goes through whatever system they have for assessing a possibly-mentally-ill teenager. Eventually, the staff decides that aside from the weirdness with her memory, Our Heroine has no symptoms of psychosis, and certainly isn’t far gone enough to need inpatient care, so they give her a tentative diagnosis of “fugue” and discharge her... but nobody in this universe is claiming her as a relative, so they have to discharge her into foster care.

It would be very convenient for the plot if one of the doctors responsible for her care—either in the emergency room where she was first treated, or the psychiatric ward where she was evaluated—could step up and volunteer to take her in. (Technically, since in this universe people live with their extended families, it would be his mother who volunteers.) However, I’m not sure if professional ethics would permit that kind of thing.

I looked at the Web pages that Massachusetts has for information about foster parents, and it looks like the main requirements they impose are that you have to take a class, pass a background check, and have your home inspected. I also looked at the AMA code of medical ethics, and while they have something there about how physicians shouldn’t treat members of their own family, if the physician-patient relationship was terminated before the foster-family relationship began, that rule wouldn’t apply... technically.

So could a doctor get away with this kind of thing, or do I have to find a more elaborate way of introducing her to a foster family?