I was talking to a doctor a few days ago, and should not have been surprised to hear the cavalier mention of throwing chemo at a patient with no real regard if that was over treating when the prognosis was poor. ‘The tumor was quite large and he was nearly a goner but what the heck we threw chemo at him and heck the tumor shrunk a little bit after the last hit he went home in some pain then was dead four hours later.’ She shrugged her shoulders and tossed her hands up in an oh well gesture. I should not have been surprised yet my insides rolled as if I had just ingested fermented food.
It was not the first time my ears were filled with such inhumane words. Oncologists especially either are so hardened to what they do or conditioned to believe what they are doing is connected to no accountability to the heavens. I tend often to feel the latter as they seem to have no emotional reaction, their actions are cold, calculated and aimed at something other than human. Surely, if they saw their patients as human they would not discuss the merits of treating patients as throwing chemo at them, or loading them up with chemo or zapping them with radiation. You don’t treat humans by loading them up with poisons you know will kill them, would you?
A summer afternoon with bright blue skies and picnicking with friends, how perfect is that? Not so perfect when you’re sitting on your picnic cloth ready to eat that delicious salad when what do your ears hear but….. ‘ hey, Jack did you see Mrs. Anderson yesterday? Her report was real shit.’ I knew who it was and appalled that at a picnic they had to be discussing such sensitive information. ‘Yeah, I set her up with a strong cocktail, admitted her in the afternoon.’ He laughed. ‘Jack she’s as good as dead, shit I gave her two weeks after getting the report back, you’re damn nuts.’ Laughter again. ‘hell, she’s gonna die anyway, let’s give her a real one-two on the way out, what’s it going to hurt. The family thinks we’re real go-getters trying to help their momma. I wasn’t going to tell them she was a goner, this way we win all around.’ ‘ Got a point there Jack, hey toss me the rolls’ By then my appetite was gone.
How many people go into their doctor’s office and hear those compassionate words: how are you doing and with a pat on the shoulder or head? Read the body language, is there really compassion there? Most already have your future planned, they give you a prognosis from experience in previous cases, that’s noted in their heads; you are given a plan and they follow that plan until you get too sick and die or you begin to weaken whereby hospice it the ultimate and final solution. Nurses working with oncologists know the drill and to survive mentally, do their jobs methodically with little emotion. When you are diagnosed with cancer you enter a system, you are a number with a time-stamped date; if you’re lucky you will beat the expiration date.
I hear these words from doctors, with the thought I would agree with their attitudes. I listen and feel my heart beat like a drum readying for combat. Then I listen to people tell me their experiences with tear-jerking details again my heart beats hard and it readies itself for pouring out compassion. I want to shout out to the doctors: stop these people are human. I want to hold these people in my arms and soothe them until their living nightmares subside. But I can do neither.
Every patient is human. They are someone’s wife or husband, they are loved; a sister or brother to someone, a mother or father; they are real. The sun rises and they feel it’s warmth, the rose’s fragrance fills their nostrils of sweet aroma, a baby’s cry tenders their hearts and they swoon at the sound of their lover’s voice. Each has a life story, chapters of joy and sadness, successes and failures, all fill their life book in different ways, that makes them who they are. The world would not be the same without them, their existence is as important as the doctor’s. Just as the doctor has the inalienable right to awaken in the morning to the rising sun and see it set in the evening, each person he sees has that right too. You do not play or pretend to be anything higher than human, as a doctor you are the same as any of your patients. Think yourself a God than to think of your patients as God.
I see in the eyes of those I help and through their voices who they are; each a best seller book. In them, I see Jesicha, with wide eyes and desperate to live. And they treated her like there was nothing behind that face, yet behind her face, there was Jesicha with dreams and hopes and there was Me, her mom that loved her more than life itself; behind that face, there were her siblings with love beyond measure. And the white coats did not care and they did not treat her like a human. They did not treat Mrs. Anderson like a human. It needs to stop.
Doctors – do you hear me? Hey – We are Human.
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