Our nation is witnessing, with great consternation, the implementation of the zero-tolerance strategy that has resulted in enforcement of a U.S. immigration policy that forcibly separates children from their parents while they seek asylum in the U.S.
This approach constitutes a serious threat to, or attack on, child welfare, because the emotional stress caused by parental separation can result in serious health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and short-term and long-term developmental impairment. It is antithetical to the widely accepted practice of family-centered care, which recognizes the critical importance of parents and guardians in mitigating the adverse effects of significant stress on the health of children.
As a pediatric surgeon, I witness on a regular basis the anguish brought by the temporary separation of children from their parents as they are whisked to the operating room. Their strident and often inconsolable cry reverberates through the hallways leading to the operating room, as their outstretched arms desperately long for the protection of their parents.
Following surgery, upon their arrival in the recovery room, it is the comforting sight and embrace of their parents that provide the soothing effect necessary to alleviate the pain resulting from the operation.
Imagine if these children were unable to see their parents postoperatively; the adverse consequences would be prolonged and profound.
Thus, given its devastating consequences, enforcement of any policy that forcibly promotes the separation of children from their parents is morally and ethically unacceptable and therefore should cease immediately to prevent further harm to innocent children.
Henri R. Ford,
dean and chief academic officer,
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine