In The Times-Independent, I will regularly be sharing with you examples of people who have used mediation, also known as dispute resolution, to make good decisions for themselves and those they love.
The names and details have been changed to protect the privacy of the parties.
Background: George and Anna met in the 9th grade; they were inseparable throughout 9th and 10th grades. In the summer after 10th grade Anna got pregnant; both George and Anna were 16 years old.
Anna and George did not get married; they continued living with their respective families and continued to attend school. Anna withdrew from school in March a couple of weeks before the birth of their son, Johnny.
After the birth of their son, Anna and the baby went “home” to her parents’ house where George spent all of his free time. When George completed 11th grade, he and Anna got an apartment where they lived together with their son. Anna worked days as a waitress in a coffee shop and George worked nights loading cargo. Anna and George worked opposite schedules so Johnny wouldn’t have to go to a baby sitter.
Soon after Johnny’s first birthday, he was diagnosed with cancer; 18-year-olds Anna and George were devastated and ill prepared to make the decisions for their son’s health care and did not have the means to pay for his medical treatment. Anna and George together used the internet to inform themselves about their son’s illness, treatment options, and prognosis. It was inevitable for Johnny to undergo surgery as well as chemotherapy. By the time Johnny was five years old, he was cancer free and remains cancer free to this day.
Unfortunately, Johnny does not have a clean bill of health. The chemotherapy interfered with his growth. Johnny, now 10 years old, is as tall as the average seven-year-old, and he has a condition that requires his fluid intake, urine output and bowel movements to be closely monitored. Additionally, Johnny’s immune system has been compromised and he requires medication four times each day.
Johnny’s parents, now separated, have to figure out how they are going to meet Johnny’s health care needs. Rather than fight with each another in court about who should have “custody” of Johnny, Anna and George realize their son needs his parents to work as a team.
Anna and George scheduled an appointment with me; their goals were to discuss seven critical issues and hopefully reach an agreement about to handle each issue.
First Dispute: Whether or not Johnny should receive growth hormone treatment.
Discussion: Anna does not feel like she has enough information to make a decision; she trusts Johnny’s doctor and believes she and George should rely on the doctor’s advice. George believes Johnny should receive growth hormone treatment because he is concerned that his quality of life will be diminished if he fails to grow to the size of a full-grown man.
Resolution: Anna and George will meet with Johnny’s doctor to discuss possible outcomes for Johnny if they decide he should proceed with growth hormone treatment as well as the possible negative side effects Johnny could suffer.
They will ask the doctor to refer them to websites that can give them additional information. Anna will do the initial research; she and George will meet for coffee in the next two weeks to discuss Anna’s findings. George will then have the opportunity to do additional research. Anna and George will make a final decision no later than 21 days after meeting with Johnny’s doctor. If Anna and George disagree on the correct way to proceed, Anna will make the final decision. George may, if he wishes, ask the court to review Anna’s decision.
George and Anna touched my heart as we sat around the conference table in my office and I listened to them enter into conversation, set aside mutual suspicion and past hurts, make the decision to trust each other, and to ultimately reach seven important agreements about their son. Additional disputes and resolutions will be presented in future articles.
It was particularly difficult for George to agree Anna could be the final decision-maker if they disagreed on the human growth hormone. Ultimately, George acknowledged Anna had taken the lead about Johnny’s health care before their separation and that he trusts her.
If you have a dispute you would like me to consider in this column contact me at: 801 994-6000, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out my website at: www.krisrogers.com.