Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Is the medical profession losing its humanity?


Of all the people we come across in our lives probably the ones we hold in most esteem, in awe even are those who dedicate their lives to keeping us alive. They are positively venerated and in many cases are held in high – they are almost godlike.
They see us at our most vulnerable and see much of us that others will only ever guess at, in fact probably only want to guess at, but like the man who works in the abattoir because he sees so many of us the enormity of his task means that he becomes desensitised without ever realising it.
No-where is this more apparent than when dealing with the harsh facts of nature’s ruthless efficiency; in fact one could say that man has become but a tool carrying out its job with more alarming cruelty than even nature intended.
And that is where danger lies.
I sometimes feel that we are not yet ready emotionally for the technological advances that are on offer to us and it behoves the medical profession to understand this and to look at the choices not from omnipotent ability but from the point of frail humanity.
I heard that a friend of my sister’s, whom I happen to have known for many years, has just had an abortion on the grounds of medical necessity. Not because her life would have been in jeopardy but that the 22 week old foetus she carried was extremely likely to die shortly after birth or even before it reached full term. The professionals in charge knew this thanks to the amazing pre natal screening now on offer to the vast majority of the population.
I have no doubt that every woman should have the right to choose what happens to her what I have issue with is the way in which the choices are portrayed. I have an awful feeling that the medical profession in this country is a tad too efficient for its own good and I begin to feel that there is less humanity as technology advances.
My sister’s friend was told heart breaking news; news no expectant mother ever ever wants to hear. My issue is why was she “persuaded” to have an abortion.  When she was told the news, her baby was alive; there was a 'chance' it could have been born alive. Yes, there was a 'risk' it would die before it could get to full term and it was highly likely it would never have survived even being born but why did it have to be killed off at 22 weeks gestation? Could not nature be allowed to take its course? Could my friend’s sister not have a 'chance' to have a live baby even if that baby was likely to die within hours?
Instead she had an abortion, and then was given the tiny frail little body to grieve over knowing that she had killed it herself. It is bad enough surely to have a still birth but the added guilt piled upon this woman for the sake of medical necessity is barbaric.
What need was there for all this? For she had not asked for an abortion on hearing the news, she was told it was a choice she could take, that it would be better; it begs the question better for whom?
It was certainly more convenient for the hospital, probably more cut and dried and cheaper than going for the rigmarole of a ‘proper birth’ and all the attendant bureaucracy. But I think it cruel and unnecessary.
Five years ago I came under tremendous pressure to "make sure" that the foetus I carried did NOT have Downs Syndrome (click here to go to post) even though the consultant knew that with my medical history I had a greater risk than average of miscarrying  a perfectly healthy baby. It was a risk the hospital was willing to accept, luckily not one either  my husband or I were prepared to take. 
Some will say because of that experience I am biased, perhaps I am but look at the words used: there was a "risk" my child would have Downs not a "chance" but a "risk". Funny that I am,  I percieve that 'risk' is far more threatening than 'chance'...

11 comments:

Miss Sadie said...

You make a really good point.

Right now in our part of the colony, we're facing a battle over doctors who don't want to even try resuscitating people who are seriously ill. The doctors want to be able to put a non-resuscitative order on a patient's chart, WITHOUT the patient's permission. I understand that's in place in Britain as well.

Doctor as helper? Hmmmm.

Von said...

Apparently they don't even swear the Hypocratic Oath any more!Sorry that's Hippocratic as I believe it used to be.

Tattie Weasle said...

Miss Sadie - DNR is in the UK but I had no idea it was done without a patient's or patient's family's consent! Scary...
Von - well that make's sense. Still I really do feel there should be a full and frank discussion with the powers that be on this issue as it affects us all at one time or another!

Posie said...

A very emotive subject, and I relate to what you are saying. I have a friend who was born with a hereditary disease. She was not expected to survive childhood, she was certainly not expected to survive adulthood, and definitely not expected to ever have children, far too risky and not been heard of before. My friend has achieved all of these things, leads a very full and incredibly happy life. She has had to have lots of treatment in hospitals over the years. Now parents can have screening to make sure a child is not born with this disease,IVF can be used to make sure a healthy foetus is impregnated into the womb if the parents carry the faulty genes. My friend points out that she has really mixed feelings about this as had this been in place when she was in the early stages of life she would not have been born. She loves her life and is incredibly thankful for it, and continues to break medical boundaries with each passing year. She is a huge inspiration and an amazing person, thank goodness she is here....

Tattie Weasle said...

Posie - I worry that everyone is after physical perfection but cannot see that perfection is not the be all and end all of life. There is no such thing as a perfect life and we should not be searching for one and interesting life now that's a different matter...

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

Interesting post and very sad.

My husband is a Dr on Intensive Care so he obviously sees a lot of end of life decision making (in adults). I know that he is currently involved in plans for a major change of DNR doctrine for the UK. Perhaps this part of the hospital experience will improve. I also know that he never considers 'budget' when looking at a patient's welfare, not because he is such a kind soul or whatever, but because Dr's just don't need to.

Tattie Weasle said...

Michelloui - what an incredibily tough area of medicine your husband works in. It will be interesting to see the changes proposed for DNR. I know that personally if there was no chance of me being able to partake in a full and active life I would NOT wish to be resucitated. I would hate to be a burden on my family.

Exmoorjane said...

Oh heck, Tattie....that one walloped me. Brought back the hell I had over the Downs syndrome testing when pregnant with James...First nuchal fold test inconclusive...had amnio...awful time. And NO idea what we would do...
My heart totally goes out to the friend of your sister's - as you say, to grieve, knowing that it was your choice that killed your baby...oh god. xxx

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Terribly sad . It's a choice one hopes never to be presented with . In the case of anencephaly , for instance , there is no happy outcome , but it still seems wrong to play God . And to be persuaded to , can't be right either .

legend in his own lunchtime said...

When my wife and I were trying to have children, we had several miscarriages. In confiding with my wonderful Mom in law, she told me that she had a history of miscarriages and that she had carried one baby to full term knowing that the baby had died in the 7th month. She said she would never wish that on any mother to be, as it was the most traumatic and soul sapping time in her whole life. I am sure there are medical professionals out there who are not very sympathetic, or at least not able to show compassion, but at least your friend was able to make a choice. There were no good options here. I hope she can come to terms with the choice she made. My heart goes out to her.

Tattie Weasle said...

Exmoor Jane - as you say oh god. It is not a choice. Why is it SO important to know? Why can we not leave it to nature? As one who had loads of miscarriages I know how ruthless nature is! It really doesn't need to be given a hand.
SmitoniusAndSonata - It is not healthy to play god too much soem things need to be left to chance...
Legend - you are so right she had a choice. My concern was that the way that choice was presented was heavily biased. I can't imagine the pain your MIL went through. I feel it was horrendous that she was forced to wait until full term. I do understand that she would never want that visited on anyone else.

Go on you know you want to...

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