Friday, December 9, 2016

Medicine In A Time Of Hate

Pranay Sinha, a third year medicine resident at Yale, shared his experience with racial hatred post presidential election. He thought he would be lauded for going above and beyond the call of duty taking care of an older white patient. Instead he was shouted down and fired by the patient. This sets Dr. Sinha into all sorts of mental turmoil.

Was he being singled out because he is a foreign medical graduate? Was it racial intolerance, since he never saw the patient treat white doctors the same way? Is it acceptable for doctors to be angry at their patients? When patients are sick and vulnerable, are they responsible for their words and actions? Should he develop thicker skin or should doctors demand respect from their patients the way we show respect to them? Has the presidential election emboldened people to drop their facade of tolerance and revealed their true colors?

As physicians, it's hard to get angry at patients without coming off as uncaring and impatient. I've had patients swing at me with their fists, spat on, scratched at, verbally abused, or generally not following orders. Yet I attribute them to the patients' general circumstances. They're in an unfamiliar environment, practically naked, most likely hungry and cold, with needles stuck in them or getting stuck every single day. I try not to judge them based on their aggressions. But many days it requires the patience of Job to make it through the day. And frequently, when I see the patient again later on they have usually forgotten about any slights that have been thrown my way and we can resume a normal relationship. But it is a challenge every doctor has to master to have a successful career, no matter their color or ethnicity.

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