opinion

COLUMN: Required doctor’s notes are unethical



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If you've taken a college course or worked a part-time job, chances are doctor's notes are required for excused absences. For those of us with insurance or who are located near our regular doctor, this might not be a problem.

However, if you can’t afford insurance, acquiring a doctor’s note can be impossible or impractical.

Because there are gaps in insurance and doctor accessibility, IU shouldn’t require a doctor’s note to excuse absences. Requiring someone to produce proof of visiting a doctor in order to maintain grades or keep a job is unethical.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 28.5 million people did not have health insurance at any point during 2017. Most of the uninsured were people of working age and tended to have lower incomes.

The average price of a doctor’s visit for new patients is about $160, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If you’re an uninsured college student or a low-income worker, you probably don’t have an extra $160 burning a hole in your pocket. You might not want to go into work or class either, but if you miss without a doctor’s note, there’s the potential for being penalized.

So what happens if you can’t go to the doctor to get a note to excuse your absence and you end up going into class or work, in an enclosed space with others? Well, you get people sick.

Even common diseases like the flu spread quickly and can kill. It’s already caused over 69,000 hospitalizations this season.

Sick people being around others leads to spreading illness. Roughly 90% of workers come in even when they’re sick. With many college courses having policies to deduct final grade points for absences without a doctor's note, you can bet sick students are in the classroom.

If professors and employers want to stop the spread of sickness, potentially forcing more of their class or workforce to stay home sick, they need to stop requiring doctor’s notes. This could potentially cause an issue with lying to get out of class or work, but that seems like something that could be dealt with on a personal basis.

It's more ethical to trust students and employees to tell the truth about their health. Students and employees may not have health insurance and may not be able to provide proof of illness.

To avoid causing someone stress about money or potentially getting those around them sick, request transparency from students and employees. Without universal healthcare, it could be too costly for students and employees to provide a doctor's note.

Consider the number of citizens without health care. Think about the dangers of having sick people in group spaces. The risk of getting more people sick because seeing a doctor isn't practical is reason enough to reevaluate doctor's note policies.

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