Sara Teichholtz, Medical Student, 05:29AM Nov 7, 2013
Two articles were trending on my Facebook newsfeed this week. I agreed with both of them rationally, but it wasn't until I put them side by side that I realized I didn't really agree with either, for exactly opposite reasons.
The first article, Marriage is Not For You, had a generally sweet message that a good deal of people I know seemed to think was worth passing on. Much to my dearest grandmother's dismay, I am still unmarried, so I know I don't have much authority on the subject. But something about the author's claim that “I want you to know that marriage isn't for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love” just wasn't clicking for me. It wasn't until I started reading another article that I realized that while I disagree that such extreme selflessness is what makes a good spouse, I do believe that it is what makes a good doctor.
Which brings me to the second article, An Open Letter to Washington, D.C. From a Physician on the Front Lines. On first read, this seemed like a valid article, something I would've shared in the past. It aimed, as the author writes in the last paragraph, to “illustrate the sacrifices doctors do make because I feel we are not represented when laws are made.” These sacrifices are ones that anyone in medicine can identify with: “lack of quality family time, our large student loan debt, the age at which we can practically start saving for retirement, and the pressure we face with lawyers watching every move we make.” However, these sacrifices are no secret to those who are discussing health care reform, and more importantly, no secret to those who make the willing choice to enter the medical profession.
Without any concrete suggestions on how he would like our leaders to address the points made in the letter, the article becomes exactly what the author did not intend: just another story about the difficulties of being a doctor and being successful in medicine. The author complains that "studies show that doctors lack empathy," but has he thought about how this article would be received by one of his patients, whose well-being he has promised to guard, who like him might be 6 figures in debt, but unlike him, has done so unwillingly and without the promise of a six-figure salary? How can we expect any sympathy in the health-care reform debate if we are not willing to first consider the greater difficulties of the very population we have sworn to put before ourselves?
As the author himself states, "many of the loudest voices in the healthcare debate are those of lawyers and lobbyists for special interests. They do not care about the well being of patients; that is what doctors do." I agree that it is time to add more physician voices to the health care debate, but not to make our concerns heard louder over those of our patients.
What are your thoughts on the article?