I didn’t want to know that the man with the compound skull fracture had fallen into a sewer drain while being chased by the police because he was the man that had been scamming poor people out of their grant money for months.
I didn’t want to know that the man with the gangrenous arm had been bitten two weeks ago, by a girl he was trying to rape.
I understand the importance of a good clinical history. But right now, while I’m saving their lives, can I not simply know that he fell in a ditch? Or that he suffered a human bite?
I don’t want to know WHY these things happened to them. Not right now in any case. Tell me later, when they have pulled through the worst. Tell me then, if you must.
Is this wrong?
I am not a judgmental person. But I don’t want to risk having my emotions interfere with the management of a patient.
What if I work less hard to save that gangrenous arm because I am disgusted by the fact that he tried to rape a young girl?
There are so many conflicting emotions flying through my head when this happens. I want to say, “Knowing their crimes is not my job – my job is to heal.” But I also know that I have always rejected the hypothesis that doctors are clinicians only.
I know that our justice system is imperfect and that many of the criminals I treat will not be found guilty by a court of law. Many of them may go back to perpetrating their crimes. And that horrifies me. But I cannot – should not – play judge, jury, and executioner in the absence of a functional prosecuting system.