Remember the Doctors

by Anjuli Sharma | 10/19/04 5:00am

What is it to be a doctor? On-calls and sleep deprivation? Insurance disputes and malpractice suits? Golf and big bank balances? Elitism and self-indulgence?

No. It is the dedication and selflessness to rush to the hospital after receiving a 3 a.m. page, the goodwill and fortitude not to deny care to patients because they cannot afford it, the spirit and humanity to devote a lifetime to aid, assist, comfort and cure. It's clichd for medical school applicants to say they want to "help, heal and save" because once they graduate, they'll be helping, healing and saving lives every day. Somehow, the admiration that these actions and qualities once demanded has been lost in the hustle and bustle of our lives, perhaps in selfishness, perhaps unrealized and unintentional.

Unfortunately, "rising healthcare costs," "healthcare reform," "malpractice insurance rates" and "medical liability reform" were among the topics of the recent presidential and vice-presidential debates as issues that cannot be ignored. But whether the system, the policies, the lawyers or the politicians are to be blamed, fault also lies with the attitude of our society.

It's time that we pay attention to the lost appreciation for our physicians. We have forgotten that life and death do not lie in human hands. We expect infallibility, but offer no gratitude for near-perfection. Doctors are not paid millions of dollars for every life they save, yet they can be sued for such an amount even after doing everything in their power to prevent death.

The idea of suing physicians for monetary compensation is in itself deserving of criticism; such an action reduces their benevolent careers to mere businesses. We should remember that incompetent doctors are few and far between. In addition, those who pursue a career in medicine "for the money" will either leave the profession upon realizing the emotional depth it involves, or rebuke themselves after figuring out that their salary is nothing compared to the satisfaction of making such positive contributions to society.

The good doctors know that sometimes patients just want someone to listen to them, that patients will remember the name of a kind doctor longer than they will the name of their antibiotics, and that emotions have the same healing potential that treatment does. The good patients realize that physicians who possess the wisdom to identify these things and act accordingly are not asking for a lot if all they want in return is respect and appreciation.

We have forgotten that doctors are human, that they have families and obligations, and most importantly, the same emotions as everyone else. As a doctor's daughter, I know the sacrifices that come with the profession. But, you'll never hear any doctor complain about the stress, the lost sleep, or the lack of personal time because the gratitude of their patients is enough to compensate for these things. Yet, we allow policy and misconceptions to interfere with their work.

It is our duty to admit that the affluence of a doctor is a stereotype; they have loans to pay off. It is our duty to recognize physicians as more than their white coats and stethoscopes; they are human beings.

It is our duty to remember how much of themselves they invest into their profession; considering their nine years of education after college, they have certainly earned their time off. We must dispel politics from their workplaces and admit to the unfairness with which we treat them, because those who serve humanity deserve better.

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