I’ve always thought it was uncomfortable when celebrities were analyzed and diagnosed by doctors they’ve never met. Everytime Dr. Drew showed up on CNN calling Angelina Jolie “malnourished” or talking about Lindsay Lohan‘s “disease,” I questioned the morality of sharing a medical opinion about a person that you’ve never treated.
I realize that this practice is pretty common place, physical and mental health professionals show up all over giving their opinion about any and every news story. After all, these doctors are experts in their field and can help explain health issues to viewers. And yet, I always questioned ethically how they could discuss someone’s personal health without knowing the whole story, without speaking to the person themselves, without any diagnostic work outside of reading news reports or analyzing pictures.
I’ve thought about this trend for a while now, even penning an article about commenters who like to lay writers down on their analyst couch and try to get all up in their psyche.
But today, this idea of medical professionals diagnosing people they never met hit home for me. Today, my daughter and I were featured in a story by Good Morning America. To give some context, I wrote about letting my four-year-old daughter play with make-up and occasionally wear it out of the house. During the piece, a psychiatrist by the name of Henry Paul, argued that I could be doing damage to my daughter because “The use of make-up in some way can be addictive, and what these children would be addicted to is the pursuit of perfection — the superficial, skin-deep, I’m only as good as I look [attitude].”
I have to admit that hearing a mental health professional who has never spoken to my daughter or me theorize about “these children” was upsetting. And honestly, it’s not about the fact that he doesn’t agree with me. (I know, I know, would I be writing this if he supported me? I would like to believe that I would.) Plenty of people don’t agree with me on this subject and I understand that we’re all entitled to our own opinion. There are literally hundreds of commenters emailing me with their disapproval and they don’t upset me as much as the doctor whose expressing his opinion in the piece. (And the commenters are a lot less respectful.)
We accept doctors’ authority to comment on health matters because they are supposed to be knowledgeable about their field. And yet, how is Henry Paul an authoritative opinion on my daughter. He’s never spoken to her. He might have read one piece I wrote about her, out of hundreds of written pieces I’ve published. Does Dr. Paul know that she doesn’t just love make-up, she also adores superheros? Does he know that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, because she likes that they “get to fix things”? Does he understand that the footage on television was a couple minutes in the life of an active, intelligent and thoughtful little girl who likes princesses and make-up, but also horses and playing in the dirt?
Henry Paul doesn’t know my daughter, so I have a hard time with his giving professional backing to an opinion about what might happen to her in the future based on one small aspect of her life.
And you know what? Most medical professionals who comment to the press about celebrities don’t know these people. They have no idea what goes on outside of the camera’s view. And yet they speak very carefully about what might be going on, or who might have had work done or what disease a person might be suffering from. People believe all those possible assumptions because a doctor made them.
Dr. Drew has made a fortune discussing celebrities he doesn’t know. He is the face of celebrity psychoanalysis and he continues to make it okay for medical professionals to share unfounded opinions about people they don’t treat.
If a psychologist comes out and says that they personally don’t think that young kids should wear make-up, then they have every right to that opinion. But if they say that my daughter will become a superior human being because they’ve watched an interview of her and see that she has a logical and thoughtful approach to life, I would say they’re wrong. Not because my daughter isn’t amazing, but because they don’t know her. No psychiatrist should be providing their professional opinions, positive or negative, on a child they’ve never met. And Dr. Drew should stick to reality rehab, at least then he actually meets with his patients before he diagnoses them for the world to see.