Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Passing Judgment

I had a patient a couple of days ago at the Pre-Labor Room (sort of like the ER of OBGyn). She came in with a chief complaint of profuse vaginal bleeding. She was previously seen by her attending and she really just came in to be admitted for a D&C. Apparently, she had a baby inside her womb when she bled. The reason for her bleeding stunned me. She inserted two tablets of misoprostol into her vagina and had ingested two more tablets. Misoprostol (Cytotec) is a drug that is primarily used to treat stomach ulcers and to help speed up cervical ripening and induce labor. It is an abortifacient. My usual smile turned into what I could only imagine to be a scowl. I wasn't mean to her and I wasn't rude. My voice was calm and even. I just didn't smile at her. She said it so casually -- that she had aborted her pregnancy -- said it so casually that it just unmasked my anger inside. I had met a few pregnant women before who had self-induced abortions but I had never interviewed any of them. This patient was my first. I didn't know if I had a right to be indignant. I didn't know if this patient's circumstances in life, unknown to me of course, deserved to be understood. All I know was that she had murdered her baby. And she seemed fine with it. Maybe she had put up such an effective defense system that I couldn't see the remorse in her eyes. Or maybe she just didn't have any.

I realized later that I had no right to judge her. Her act may be condemnable but as her physician, my responsibility was to her, the patient, the person. I had to perform my role as a member of her health care team without prejudice to her decisions, however wrong or right they may have been. I could tell her about how it is against moral and civil law to take someone else's life. That would have been part of my role as her physician and as a fellow human being. But to pass judgment on her was beyond what I was called to do as a doctor.

I hope that one of these days, that patient wakes up and realizes her mistake. Who knows. Maybe she already has.

5 comments:

audienceone said...

I'm no doctor Karl but I feel how stunned you are at her actions.

I could only imagine my reaction if I were in your place and I may have passed judgement too easily on this one but yes, it is not our place to judge. Even if we don't carry your responsibility as a member of her health care team, we too don't have the right to pass judgement.

broks said...

Welcome to the real world!
In ust, i interviewed lots of moms na ganyan! nakakainit tlga ng ulo!

Buti na lang may legal med sa ust... yang mga yan, dapat pinapa-blotter. Abortion is not legal in this country... kaya criminal act yang ginagawa nila.
We're not judges alright, but we are not judging the person in this case, but the intrinsically evil act itself.

ayan, uminit na naman ulo ko tuloy... hehe. Cge dude!

wickedsis said...

kinda like with me defending the "guilty". it is not up to us to judge, karl. maybe she had her reasons... maybe they were suffiecient to justify having her baby killed. maybe in her own way she has already suffered her loss. doesn't make it easy though... doesn't make it easy to keep a tight reign on your anger... i used to proclaim i am pro-choice, but deep down i know i can only be pro-choice if the choice was to have the baby....

riv_md said...

nice!

JenMP said...

Good to come back and read your thoughts Karl. Something Chey keeps telling me is love the sinner hate the sin. As Christians, we're to love people despite the things that they do. We hate what they do, but we don't hate them. I find it is so hard to differentiate between the two at times.

I think if that lady had told me the same thing so casually, I definitely would have become angry and judgmental. But, she probably doesn't even know the Lord. What's most important is her salvation. Only then will she realize the extent of what she's done. But until then, how is she really supposed to understand what's morally right and wrong without the divine wisdom of God? True, everyone has a sense of right and wrong, but not to the same extent as those who personally know God. According to 1 Corinthians 2:14 men without God are incapable of knowing divine truth. It's something I have to remind myself of everyday.