Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Absurd Dilemmas Caused by Secrets in Closed Adoptions

Jean Strauss, adoptee, author (Birthright & Beneath a Tall Tree) and filmmaker (Vital Records & ADOPTED: for the life of me), has this piece at the Huffington Post:
How angry would you be if the government had personal information about you -- but wouldn't let you see it? Many adult adoptees can relate to this experience -- forty states still withhold their original birth certificates from them. The secrets inherent in closed adoptions can create a lifetime of frustration and feelings of being second-class citizens -- and can also create absurd dilemmas.

Gay Ellen Brown is a 51-year-old Illinois adoptee who was raised in New Jersey. In 2009, she was diagnosed with several pre-cancerous breast lesions. After these were surgically removed, her doctor requested she have a BRCA DNA test to see if she carried the gene for breast and ovarian cancer. If she did carry the gene, it would guide many decisions about her future treatment and would be important for her children and grandchildren to know.

But Gay Ellen's insurance company refused to pay for the test, citing a company policy that only allowed coverage if there was a demonstrated family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Since Gay Ellen had no way of knowing her family's medical background, she could not prove the need for the genetic analysis. The BRCA test cost over $3,000, and Gay Ellen was unable to personally afford it.

"It's always in the back of my mind," she says. "Am I carrying this gene? I have three daughters and a granddaughter. What about them? The insurance company knows I'm adopted but it makes no difference."
I've mentioned before that I'm a big Jean Strauss fan -- I had to admit that I felt starstruck when I shared a ride with her from the train station to the hotel when I attended the American Adoption Congress convention! I can't wait to see the new documentary, ADOPTED: for the life of me (I missed the screening at both the AAC convention AND the St. John's conference, darn it!).  It has not yet been shown on my PBS station.  Click here to see when it airs on yours.

No comments: