Did you know that there’s a field of medical philosophy that is about placing a value on a patient for whether they deserve treatment or not and how much?
I have looked everywhere I can think of, and can’t find the name of it (don’t you hate that?), but the fact that it exists at all is frightening. When I remember the name of it, I’ll repost this blog – lol.
Anyway, here is an example of it.
My birth-mother’s battle with breast cancer started off horrendously. Although she passed over a year ago from heart disease, she had remained cancer free for 12 years. My mother had lived in an adult foster home for about 10 years before I got the call at 19 telling me of her diagnosis of breast cancer. I met with her, and took her to the Medicaid recommended doctor. This was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life, and illustrates the viewpoint of this form of medical philosophy.
The doctor told me that he recommended that my mother have a complete mastectomy.
I asked him, “Why? If the lump is only in one breast, and it hasn’t spread to her lymph nodes, why should she have to have a mastectomy?”
This is when some of the most cold words I’ve ever heard from anyone came out of his mouth.
“Let me put it to you frankly. Your mother has no value. She will probably live in that adult foster home for the rest of her life. She is unlikely to ever get a productive job in society, and she is past the age to bear children. She is lucky to get any care at all.”
LUCKY TO GET ANY CARE? NO VALUE? My mother was one of the sweetest, kindest people you would have ever met. It was not her fault to get sick enough to live in a home, nor was it her fault that she developed breast cancer.
Because my mother had no material worth, she was ‘lucky to get any care.’
My mother, whom I never saw cry, even with all the bad things she’d been through, cried at this. She told me that she didn’t feel like she could live if she couldn’t have her breasts. She told me that her breasts meant to her that she had been a woman, and a mother.
And they sure as hell mattered to her!
I took her to get a second opinion at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. The doctor, (I wish I remembered her last name), Dr. Susan, was wonderful to my mother, and always treated her with respect and dignity.
My mother ended up only needing a lumpectomy and radiation–not a complete mastectomy. I was there for my mother’s surgery, and through her radiation treatments. I made sure she got her medicine through her post-cancer life. My mother’s cancer never returned.
If I hadn’t made sure she had gotten a second opinion, my mom’s life would have been radically different. A doctor who didn’t care about a woman’s self-worth, probably would not have cared about other things involved in her treatment. Even though my mother has passed on, I am so thankful to the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
If there is something to be gained from this story, I would say that it is to always get a second opinion on anything serious. If you have a similar story of a physician not treating you or someone you love for reasons of ‘value’ I’d love to hear it.