Should We Get Involved?

I recently read The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness. It’s the second book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, which I quite like. The story line has very little to do with medicine, but in this book there is a lot of focus on the healers – basically, female doctors. As the book progresses battle lines are drawn and people have to choose sides – except, as in any war, some don’t want to choose sides.

One of these is a young apprentice-healer who believes that the resistance is doing as much harm as those in power. At one point, Viola (female protagonist) asks her why she won’t fight. She says,


“Every soldier out there is someone’s son. The only crime, the only crime, is to take a life. There is nothing else. To live is to fight. To preserve life is to fight everything that man stands for. I fight them every time I bandage the blackened eye of a woman, every time I remove shrapnel from a bomb victim. That’s my war. That’s the war I’m fighting.”

At the time of reading this, I was struggling with adapting to being uninvolved on my campus. If you know me, you know that I have been uber-involved since the day I arrived her. This year, my fifth year, is the first time I am not involved with student politics in some form or another. And a part of me misses it, but a part of me thinks it is great to focus on my work and nothing else (yeah right, I’m focusing on books too).

So I ask myself, did I waste my time in all those meetings and at all those rallies? Trying to change things that never changed? Would I be better off if I had stuck to my “job”: being a medical student, and learning to be the best doctor I can be?

I think of people like the Nazi doctors and Wouter Basson and I think: this is why doctors should not get involved in politics. They should stick to their mandate of healing. And I think of doctors who have changed the world – the heart transplant, penicillin, leprosy cures – and I think, this greatness was attained by doing their jobs. Not by running to parliaments and causing havoc. Right? I don’t know.

I have never thought that medicine should be my only job. I have always thought that I should use the job to improve the situation in my country and the world – by being involved in humanitarian efforts, or politics, or something. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe the best thing a doctor can do for the world is be a doctor, wholeheartedly. Sometimes I do wonder if doctors should not stick to being doctors, and nurses to being nurses, and maybe we should leave the politicians to be politicians and the teachers to be educators.

Except, then… who becomes the change-agents?


  1. Thanks for linking up today with medical mondays. Loved your post – heavy topic. Yes doctors should be doctors wholeheartedly, but I don’t want my politicians being wholeheartedly politicians!

  2. Ashley says:

    Stopping by from Medical Mondays. I should probably check this book out, especially the time it’s set it. I do think doctors should be doctors wholeheartedly, but there are some grey areas. Everyone has a variety of interests, it just should affect your main one.

    1. Thanks for the insight!

  3. beckireads says:

    Does being a doctor wholeheartedly a doctor, or a politician being wholeheartedly a politician necessarily exclude the possibility that they could also be agents for change? Just a thought. Really enjoyed reading your post.

    1. You’re right. I guess sometimes one just gets so involved in one thing that it precludes involvement elsewhere. I want all docs to desire change, but I don’t want them to skim on their clinical duties either, of course.

  4. nisha360 says:

    You can be a doctor and still do another things to change the world I believe all of us should go the extra mile to change the world.

  5. I also have some interests in politics – I don’t think either one has to be mutual exclusive. There can be some overlap and I tend to want more physician involvement in our political environment. Being a doctor should come first in my opinion but being actively engaged in shaping healthcare policy is important too.

    1. That’s the conundrum, isn’t it – because when non-medical people make health policies it always turns out badly because they don’t understand the clinical environment. It’s a tough one. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Emma says:

    Love this thought provoking post! I wish doctors were free to simply doctor. There’s too much red tape they must deal with nowadays.
    Thank you for linking up with us for Medical Monday!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Red tape does suck. There’s this really nice political cartoon about it by a South African artist, actually. Basically plays on the idea that we could export red tape if there was a market.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s