Before comedian Joan Rivers died and there were selfies of doctors posing with her body, it never crossed my mind that those who we trust to work with and heal our bodies would mistreat them. According to an essay titled “Our Family Secrets” published Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, inappropriate behavior toward a patient’s body is not a foreign occurrence in the operating room.
In the essay, an anonymous writer reflects on a time he asked students whether or not they had experiences from their clinicals that needed to, or could not, be forgiven. A student, referred to as David, claims he witnessed behavior he believes could not be forgiven.
Before performing a vaginal hysterectomy, the surgeon working with David cleaned the woman’s vaginal area and inner thighs, looked to his student and said, “I bet she’s enjoying this.” As angry as David may have felt, however, he admits he laughed.
This situation was not unfamiliar to our anonymous writer, who goes on to describe a situation he found himself in during a delivery. The patient started to bleed from her vagina, and the doctor who was summoned to tend to the patient put her under anesthesia to massage the uterus until it contracted. Even though the woman’s vagina already contracted, and the bleeding stopped, the doctor kept his hand inside her, making comments like, “That’s what I like,” “A nice, tight uterus” and dancing “La Cucaracha.”
As children we are taught if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Yes, both doctors who shared their stories were only witnesses to this disgusting behavior, but they too, were in the wrong for laughing at jokes they knew were not funny.
I have two doctors I see regularly, a gynecologist and family practitioner. Both know my family well and could tell you our medical history on sight, no matter how long it has been between visits. A doctor who pays close attention to detail, both professionally and on a personal note, who offers insight on their lives as well, is a doctor I am more inclined to establish a special bond with.
The essay raises awareness to patients that, unfortunately, when under heavy medication, your body is no longer in your control. Some doctors find play in their work, and it is important to find a doctor you can trust.