Monday, May 5, 2014

True colors

Last week, for those of you who missed it, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling temporarily became the most hated man in America. This is actually pretty impressive, as it involves leapfrogging over politicians, television pundits, lawyers, doctors, and the barista who can never get your order right.

Mr. Sterling's downfall came because of overtly racist statements. This rapidly brought him condemnation from politicians, celebrities, and pretty much anyone with a microphone or Twitter account. People lined up around the block to announce they would boycott Clippers games if he wasn't removed, and team sponsors jumped ship fast.

So, guess who can't boycott Mr. Sterling? I can't. Or anyone in the healthcare field.

Sure, I can refuse to go to his games, or live in one of his buildings. But if he shows up in my office or hospital, I wouldn't turn him away. And neither should any doctor or nurse.

This is one of the hardest things in medicine. Regardless of how we may feel about a person, or disagree with their beliefs, we still have to do our best to help them when they need us. I've taken care of neo-nazi white supremacists, militant black supremacists, dirtballs who shoot police or kill innocent people just because they don't like them... the list goes on. Sterling's condescending boardroom racism is minor league compared to these guys.

It's part of the job. Whether they come to you in the office, or you're seeing them in the hospital, you have to set aside your personal feelings and do your best to help. Dr. Samuel Mudd spent 4 years in prison for providing medical care to John Wilkes Booth - a conviction yet to be overturned.

I never discuss politics with patients, as it's bad for the relationship. But that doesn't stop some from bringing it up, sometimes expressing blatantly racist or antisemitic views. I've had people tell me all blacks should be shipped to Africa, or Jews or homosexuals killed. Do I agree with this? Hell no. But I also believe that part of being a doctor is caring for anyone who seeks my help, regardless of personal feelings for them.

In hospitals they have it even worse. Nurses and doctors there have to deal with people who are drunk, high, verbally abusive, and sometimes violent. And, again, they do their best to help those no one would want to. As professionally as possible.

Like most people these days I don't support or like Mr. Sterling. But that wouldn't stop me, or any number of doctors, nurses, or paramedics from doing our best to help him if he needed us. Because that's what we do.


Anonymous said...

Funny, doctors fire me all the time for having a serious medical condition that requires them to spend more than 15 minutes per appointment with me. So really, why shouldn't you be able to fire someone like Sterling? Doesn't make much sense.

Bobbi said...

Well said, Dr. G!

Silliyak said...

Wouldn't some of those views necessitate a brain scan to see if there were any working brain cells?

Anonymous said...

Clearly, Mr. Sterling's plastic surgeon agrees with you.

The Patient Doc said...

I think I have a harder time dealing with the patients who are verbally abusive and even threaten physical abuse. I give them the care they need, but I wonder who cares for me? Why aren't we allowed to protect ourselves and stand up for our beliefs?

Ms. Donna said...

Yes, a scan to find working neurons is on order. But thank you and all medical folks for taking care of opinionated us.

Anonymous said...

A few months ago I spoke to a former commander of the theater hospital at Balad AB. He mentioned a multi-hour surgery in which his trauma team worked non-stop, trying to save an Iraqi who had been hit by a Predator as he was attempting to set an IED. Same effort, regardless of his beliefs or actions.

tbunni said...

I have an odd requirement of my employer: I have to respect them. And the medical office I have been with for the last 16 years fits the bill perfectly. But Dr Grumpy, if you ever need another staff person, I would be proud to work for you!

awesomesauciness said...

My PC has twin girls. Through pics, I've watched them grow until one day I noticed the pics were all gone.

When I asked her why, she told me she had not one, but several sex offenders in her practice, and she had no ethical choice other than to treat them.


Reason # 4,356 why I couldn't be a doctor is listed above.

Also, I'd tell them castration was the only course of matter their ailment. I'd offer it, at low/no cost in the office, too.

Maybe I'd use anesthesia.


No, really, I would.

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget, on occasion, dementia or other health issues may be responsible for a person making horrible comments or going off on crazy racist rants or just simply "talking crazy". My mother, one of the most loving people in the world, said bizarre things and tried to bite me while hallucinating from the morphine she was given while dying from peritonitis.

Anonymous said...

Now I really wonder where you live that you have neo-nazi white supremacists and militant black supremacists as patients, simply because they make up such a small portion of the population in MOST parts of the U.S. that the chances of a neurologist having them as patients would be small.

Lisa Romeo said...

And re: Samuel Mudd. That's where we get the expression "His name is mud."

matt johnson said...

@Anon, they have them all over the place where Grumpy is a yakherder.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:21 pm; There are a lot more racists and anti-semites out there than you seem to think. In ALL parts of the country. They don't have to be "neo-nazi" or "militant" per se to espouse terrible, uninformed, prejudiced opinion.

Nana said...

One bright note...Dr. Mudd was pardoned (or otherwise forgiven) a few years back.
And yes, the nicest / most normal-seeming folks can spout the most vile unforgivable cr@p.

RehabRN said...

Yes, you just have to go and do your job.

Some people I work with don't really get that.

And yes, we have sex offenders at the Hotel. So I just deal with them and make sure they know that our job is to get you better and not judge you. End of story.

Thank you Grumpy!

Don said...

I read a transcript of what he said, while I listened to the recording.

Yes, he used racist language.

But I don't think he was upset about the race of the people his girlfriend was hanging out with. I think he was upset about her narcissistic behaviour of plastering pictures of herself and these other famous people on instagram and twitter.

He is an old man. He doesn't get the attraction of social media. He expects some decorum in the people around him and he felt she was not showing proper decorum and behaviour by posting selfies for everyone in the world to look at.

I hope I am never judged for the stupid things I say when I am angry

Susan said...

Anon @637 - currently insurance companies pressure doctors to average 12 minutes per patient. Perhaps you should talk to your insurer about that problem, and not the doctor who's trying to help you within the time constraints allowed. If you're getting 15 minutes, that means someone else is going to get 9.

Anonymous said...

Those in the medical profession don't hate the "mentally ill"? Right. Not.
A twenty five year average shorter lifespan for the mentally ill, but that is just a coincidence, I am being paranoid.

Nectarine said...

I deal with this too working in community mental health services. There is a line though - when clients become discriminatory or abusive towards their care provider they might not get service anymore. Of course this doesn't work in emergencies.
White Coat Black Art had a great episode on this recently, you should give it a listen!

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