When I was younger, I elected to have jaw surgery to correct TMJ caused by too many years of thumb sucking (put down your Freud books). The choice was easy. When I was in junior high and already awkward, my orthodontist told me I needed to either wear head gear for a year immediately or have jaw surgery at some point in the future. Duh, surgery. I didn’t need any more help being weird in junior high. The perms I made my non-professional-hair-stylist cousin give me and the outlandish clothes I thought were stylish (I wore, among other things: Skidz, Hypercolor and hammer pants) were enough.
So the time for surgery came in high school (around 1992) and as part of the entire procedure, I had to donate blood to myself. My mom took me to the Red Cross where they quickly whisked me away from her to give me a very embarrassing questionnaire. Not a form on a “clipboard that you have to complete, both sides, make sure you sign on this line and that line.” No, it was a man asking me directly a series of super invasive questions. I was probably 15 at the time and despite what you might think from my previous perm-and-tacky-clothes confession, most of the questions about sexual activity were N/A. But he insisted on asking and having me answer every question. All the questions seemed to be getting at the same basic idea, but they each was worded slightly different.
“Were you ever in a room that may have been used at some point in the last twenty-five years by two men having sex?”
“Did you ever lick the floor of a room that may have been used at some point by two men having sex?”
“Did you ever put wallpaper up in a room that may have been used at some point by two men having sex?”
Ok, I’m making up ridiculous scenarios for effect, but the questions actually asked seemed as outlandish as the ones I made up. I know what they were trying to get at and I know why (though I don’t necessarily agree), but what I have yet to understand is: (a) do they realize anyone can lie on this questionnaire, and (b) are they not independently testing donated blood for whatever bad things they are concerned are in it?
Well, anyways, that’s a bigger issue, but I was thinking about that embarrassing experience over the last week as I was filling out a medical history questionnaire for an upcoming physical. I was first struck by the set of personal status identifiers:
I had never seen “partnered” as an option, but it seemed to be the best descriptor for my situation. Also, if I were divorced, I would pick the “single” option because why should I be defined by that? I was talking with a friend who said a medical professional actually scolded her for picking “single” when in fact she was divorced. At best, I guess these selections can be indicators for mental health or domestic violence, but the options are part of the basic background questions, so I’m not convinced that those reasons are why the questions appear on the form.
But then I got to the meat and potatoes of the form and holy crap! As a self-proclaimed Nosy Rosy, I wish I knew how much info people in the health field are privy to – perhaps I would have chosen a different path in life. Here’s a sample:
- Are you sexually active?
- How many partners in the past 5 years?
- Men, women, or both?
- Do you wear helmets when appropriate?
- Have you had driving violations?
My personal favorite is: Do you sometimes use street drugs (cocaine marijuana, heroin, etc)?
I mean, it’s a yes or no question. So if you regularly use “street drugs,” you should technically answer “no” – but I doubt that’s what they want.
I guess all these questions have a legitimate health concern behind them, but I’ve been an adult long enough to know that most of the time, things (especially things like forms) are the way they are because no one questions or challenges it.
Does anyone else blush when filling out forms like this?