Sometimes I Don’t Want To Know

a4c50964f550a70443d53e51fe887a82I 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.



  1. Nancy Ackelson says:

    Ya, it’s hard. Sometimes life is just ridiculously hard and absurd. Especially when you care.
    Hang in there Mariechen, you are quite awesome.


  2. DoctorHaylee says:

    It’s definitely not wrong. It’s so much harder to remain objective once you learn something that feels uneasy or unwelcome about a patient. I wrote in a patient note one time that the patient cheated on their partner. I was reminded later to be more objective and report that they had a recent, new, non monogamous sexual encounter as it was clinical and carried no value judgement. It was difficult to be faced with the fact that I did, in fact, judge that person and it was tough to try to force myself to remove that from the equation. It’s much more difficult with seemingly self-inflicted issues. I try to remember how complicated any situation or life can be, but it’s still difficult sometimes.

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