Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There Are No Trigger Warnings In Medicine

There's been a lot of angst recently regarding the increasing use of trigger warnings in college. In case you are not up to the latest in collegiate conventions, trigger warnings are supposed to notify students about topics being discussed in the classroom that may cause discomfort and bring back distant memories of traumatic events earlier in life. Oberlin College gained internet infamy when it advised its professors to beware of speaking to their students in class that smack of, "racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression."

Well, isn't that special. We are raising a whole new generation of students who have been so protected in their relatively short lives that they cannot tolerate any kind of shock to their systems. They have been led down a preordained path that can't endure any deviance from their self prescribed path through life else their feelings might get hurt.

Let me tell you, I hope none of these students who are rallying for trigger warnings in school ever apply to medicine. If they think reading "Huckleberry Finn" is too appalling, they have no idea what's going to hit them the first day they walk into medical school.

They will quickly realize that the human condition carries no red flags or warning labels. If these kids think reading books that contain scenes of rape is too much to bear, what will they do when they encounter a real rape victim in the emergency room? They won't be able to just walk out the room to skip today's reading assignment. They'll be face to face with the victim's physical and mental injuries, most of which they could never have imagined from just reading a book.

What will these students do when they see a young child with terminal cancer in the pediatric ward? Will they demand trigger warnings be taped to the patients' doors so they can decide if they are able to stomach the scene that awaits them on the other side? No nurse or attending doctor is going to be there to hold their hands as they gingerly step across the threshold to confront the realities of life.

I am personally disgusted at how far down we have spiraled in our efforts to raise our children in the most politically correct fashion. Where will we find our next generation of physicians when these students are cowering in mom and dad's living rooms playing with their iPads, avoiding the real world? If the mere act of reading a subject that goes against their world views can trigger a mental meltdown, how will we find anyone prepared to confront our most pressing healthcare issues? Death, dying, pain, suffering. These are all problems doctors have to face every day. There is no turning away.

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