Are There Standards For "Controversial Information"?


Kate has a question for the Hive Mind here @Your LISNews:

"My question is are their any standards on giving out information on "hot button" issues like abortion? Can we legally give out information to a fourteen year old girl that wants to know how much pennyroyal one should injest to have an abortion?"


Look at it this way: Would you advise patrons on any other medical issues? I mean, my doctor says I can take up to four ibuprofen, but would you give that info to a patron? All you can do is present them with information that you have at your disposal. I think you could use the reference interview to present this patron with options. "I can't advise you about medical issues, but you might check with the local Planned Parenthood" or point her to a PP website where she might get some good medical care. Or, if you are lucky enough to have an herbalist or lay midwife in the area, she might get some help that way.

Practicing medicine without a license is relevant.

Unless you are a doctor or an attorney, you shouldn't be giving medical or legal advice.

The last place I would direct a patron is planned parenthood. The library has any number of authoratative sources on traditional and herbal medicine.
Failing that provides authoratative information and links to other authoratative sites.

Referring a patron to a specific physician or practice (as is planned parenthood) can be considered the practice of medicine insofar as you are making a diagnosis and suggesting a provider for treatment. Suggesting that she see her doctor, or providing lists of physicians or links to local hospital web sites that provide physician referral are alternatives.

As librarians we should be able to find out that using pennyroyal as an abortifacient is a fantastic way to kill yourself. ( : J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 2003;41(3):235-9. )

You should be able to share authoratative information with your patrons on all sides of the issue. Providing links to physician referral, as well as peer reviewed or other authoratative information rather simply one or the other is the minimum acceptable behavior. It is improper to let one's personal beliefs on any subject cloud one's professional judgement.

And...don't forget--TAX advice. It's that time o' year.

You are absolutely right, in theory, Matt, about not referring to a specific agency or practice. I'm pretty sure a 14 year old girl who is so freaked out that she is considering taking herbs, is not going to consider her family doctor. And, now that I think about it, NO ONE is going to treat a 14 year old girl without parental consent, PP, included. PP, by the way, did right by me when I was a young woman without insurance or doctor. I was able to get affordable gynecological care through the clinic. And, they celebrated with me when I went in for a pregnancy test that turned into my oldest daughter.

Another thing to consider is whether or not this information is for her, some school project, or for a friend (or maybe a "friend"). Finding someone relevant texts and allowing them to make their own decisions about which portions contain the information needed should be fine. In addition to finding sources in the library, you could also mention to the patron that other community resources are available, too.My least favorite question "which form do I need for _______" - all of those legal or tax questions just plain stink.

PP will provide care (it does indeed do more than ABs) to patients 14 YOA. At least where parental consent is not required (that discussion is a whole other issue not related to libraries). However if it is the law, then it is the law that they can treat 14 year olds. Frankly I'd rather have a child go to PP than take a whole bunch of herbs if she is certain she wishes to have an abortion. They do have doctors at PP. However if it were not an A or B choice I think the phone book is a great place to start under Abortion (some states do not let places that do not perform ABs list under that category so I would be certain to show all the AB related categories - AB counseling, AB alternatives, AB providers. This way I would not be suggesting a particular provider.

I do have a link that shows PP treats children w/o consent, but people need to ask me for it as I don't want to stir up too much controversy as it is at a pro-life site.

Oddly people seem more likely to take medical advice from a librarian than tax advice. I hated tax season, especially 4/15 when everyone wants forms we are out of and they want to blame me for their failure to file.

Now I work for a CPA firm and I never get those questions anymore!

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