Somehow in my journey of researching and living with Crohn’s disease and chronic illness generally, I came across the case of disaffected medical doctors killing themselves. Apparently it’s not just chronically ill, chronically let-down and chronically pissed off patients who are becoming disaffected with Western medicine and everything it entails. According to at least one doctor who has taken to researching the issue, doctors and medical students are subjected to what she concludes are “human rights violations” when they are financially coerced by their medical schools, employers and licensing boards to get with the Western medical program and all it entails or lose their livelihoods, lifestyles and all the goodies they were expecting when they decided to get into medicine in the first place.
As a fellow licensed professional also subjected to the standards of my profession I can relate to the financial coercion part, as can anyone who has ever had a job anywhere. The difference with medical doctors of course is that any alleged or actual coercion they experience to get educated and gainfully employed as medical doctors “coerces” them to directly harm other living beings such as the patients they “practice” medicine on and live animals on which they practice vivisection and medical experiments while in medical school. Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether someone is ever morally blameless when they decide to knowingly physically harm a person or animal for their own material gain (or to avoid serious losses including financial ruin and everything that entails in the context of capitalism and patriarchy) I find this research and what it reveals relevant to my own experience as a disaffected chronically ill person who has abandoned the harmful medical standard of care that was only hurting me and making me worse.
Apparently, medical students become disaffected by their educations (and by the medical experts and policymakers who are teaching them, and presumably the field as a whole if they think it through) when they are subjected to intentional sleep deprivation, professional hazing and bullying, censorship of speech and ideas, what they call “pimping” which seems like law school’s Socratic Method but for doctors where they are interrogated on medical minutiae in front of their peers, and being required to participate in “labs” or laboratory experiences where they practice vivisection and medical experiments on live, conscious animals to observe their response. Later in practice, doctors are subjected to extreme working conditions and respond physically, emotionally and mentally with signs of so-called burnout which this researcher concludes is just a euphemism for abuse:
How do you know if you’re being abused at work? 1) You don’t get lunch or bathroom breaks. 2) You are forced to work multiple-day shifts. 3) You are not allowed to sleep. 4) You are forced to see unsafe numbers of patients. 5) You can never seem to find “work-life balance.” 6) You are threatened verbally, financially—even physically. 7) You are bullied. 8) And if you ask for help, you’re called a slacker or worse.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.
YOU ARE A VICTIM OF ABUSE.
Wishing to go further down this road and wanting to know what else doctors feel they are “forced” to do when treating patients, because frankly I’m a lawyer and I smell blood in that water, I read one doctor’s testimony of having performed “heroic” measures on a female patient with unsurvivable traumatic liver injuries in emergency surgery or what he described as “flogging” her for many hours when he knew she had no chance of survival. He did this because professionally he felt he had to, even though it was his professional opinion that the efforts were useless. He described his actions as “flogging” making it entirely clear that he knew he was causing harm and essentially desecrating a corpse by then which he seems to have found morally repellent but he did it anyway. What else do doctors do when they feel professionally “coerced” to act and they know they are causing harm but continue to do it anyway?
In my own case as a Crohn’s patient, my doctors have communicated in cryptic ways with me where I knew that they were trying to tell me something but they couldn’t legally or professionally say it. My first doctor told me I needed to get insurance immediately even though I had self-paid for all the diagnostic tests and exams and they had been able to provide me with free samples of medication about half the time or more. If that’s what my future held as a Crohn’s patient I was fine with that and my finances at the time would have been able to manage the blow. She was telling me that things were only going to get worse. But why didn’t she just say it? My second doctor told me I needed to utilize my intelligence and training as an attorney to aggressively research my condition and the treatments available to me. Why couldn’t he just tell me what treatments were available to me himself? Something was stopping him from just coming out and saying it, and I knew that it had to be his professional and legal duties known as the accepted “standard of care” which was conflicting with his human or personal desire to share vital knowledge with me about my condition.
It took me 2 years to figure out what the fuck they were even talking about, and yes, it did take hours of aggressive research for me to suspect first that my doctor was suggesting the so-called elemental diet and then when that didn’t help at all to conclude that he was probably talking about medical pot! Putting 2 and 2 together here, one could reasonably conclude that he knew that medical cannabis was the answer, and that conventional treatments were some degree of inferior if not completely useless but he prescribed them to me anyway. When I had repeated treatment failures and was in severe pain and distress because of it, he only suggested more aggressive conventional treatments which had hideous and disabling side effects when presumably he knew pot was the answer but he couldn’t say it. And while we are considering what the doctor technically “could have” done but chose not to, he could have been supplying cannabis to his patients himself if he had only wanted to. Couldn’t a wealthy professional male have procured some contraband if he really wanted to? Of course he could’ve! If he had wanted to, and if he was free to follow his conscience. And in my case, I believe I was fortunate to have doctors who had consciences and who were willing to give me these cryptic messages at all, especially considering that I was a lawyer with whom doctors walk on eggshells anyway because of the medical malpractice Boogeyman they are all allegedly so afraid of. Seriously, if you want to see a doctor’s head explode mention medical malpractice or even better, talk about their medical malpractice insurance premiums. Trust me, don’t get them started.
Speaking of doctor’s consciences, while I had 2 treating doctors who apparently had some, I think we can fairly assume that there are some doctors out there who do not have consciences at all. Doctors for whom the medical field and the accepted standards of care work well because they like hurting patients and enjoy seeing the painful distressing fallout cause further harm to vulnerable people and destroy their lives. Likewise I think we can assume that there are doctors out there who are simply ambivalent to it and just go home at the end of each day, put the day’s gold coin in the piggybank and crack open a beer. It takes all kinds, and there are those kinds of people in the world, and presumably some of them become doctors. The fact that medicine is an historically male-dominated and exceptionally patriarchal field only increases the chances that it will attract psychopaths because most psychopaths are male, and because psychopaths above all desire to dominate, control and ultimately harm other people. Even better if the harm they wish to cause is hands-on and physical and carries the real risk of death. Medicine would provide the perfect cover for these people to abuse patients and in fact encourages it. Of course, what we are talking about here is institutionalized abuse.
Now, according to the medical researcher looking into doctor suicides, doctors of conscience are at a higher risk of suicide than other doctors who presumably don’t have consciences at all, or none to speak of:
Sweet, sensitive souls are at highest risk. Some of the most caring, compassionate, and intelligent doctors choose suicide rather than continuing to work in such callous, uncaring and ruthlessly greedy medical corporations.
Assuming there is some basis for this researcher’s assertion, here we see the chances of any patient encountering a sadistic doctor increasing as the ones who are not sadistic weed themselves out and remove themselves from the pool of available treating doctors by killing themselves. Presumably other of the better doctors do not commit suicide and simply stop practicing medicine at all rather than continue working in conditions they find morally repugnant or which are causing them physical or mental harm and who knows where those doctors end up, but they aren’t taking patients. And the other doctors are. Do you see what I’m saying? To seriously chronically ill patients all of this makes perfect sense and largely if not completely explains their negative encounters with doctors who either just don’t seem to care about true health and healing or who seem intentionally malignant. Over time of course, it becomes difficult to distinguish the ambivalent doctor from the malignant one because they are both leaving sick, injured and dying patients suffering in the wake of their profession and their professional ambition.
What I am suggesting here is that even doctors know that there is something seriously wrong with Western medicine, including the ways it treats patients, but they feel compelled for various reasons to participate it in anyway. In the case of Crohn’s disease which is notoriously unresponsive to conventional treatment, we must assume that the doctors know that and that they feel they have no choice but to keep recommending conventional treatments to us that they know damn well won’t work. If they won’t even stand up on their own behalves and risk their own livelihoods and futures when they feel like the Western medical machine is “bullying” and abusing them, does anyone think they are likely to do that for their patients? Why would they? Even the best most conscientious doctors operating under these conditions of alleged coercion, abuse and censorship of speech, ideas and dissent will only confuse patients by displaying earnestness and other positive qualities where the patients feel unable to complain because they “like” their doctor and think the doctors are good people, but the treatments are offering no relief.
Even good doctors and good people will fuck you over if it suits them is the lesson and the punchline here, where “goodness” is not an absolute moral value but a relative one, where we are comparing essentially benign neglect with outright sadistic monsters. In any case, it is the patients who suffer, and since we are discussing suicide here, it cannot be unrelated that Crohn’s patients have a known propensity for suicide themselves as well as depression and alcohol and drug abuse. Surely, any Crohn’s patient can be forgiven for self-medicating the effects of this hideously painful and disabling disease where conventional treatments do not work and cause even more painful side effects, necessitating more treatment and even more pain. And where medical cannabis is still illegal or highly regulated (and expensive) making it essentially unavailable to the majority of people who need it. Likewise when Crohn’s patients become “depressed.” Whether Crohn’s patients’ suicides are “forgivable” under the conditions I am describing here is absolutely worth thinking about, but is beyond the scope of this post.