Written by Mary Katherine
Another day, another headline from a click-bait news source.
I had a hard time scrolling past this one, even though I knew better–but the article caught my eye. It was a heart-wrenching account of childbirth gone wrong–and the heartless doctor who was to blame. Attorneys and family members painted a pretty damning picture, so I wasn’t surprised when it was revealed that a lawsuit was pending. When a baby dies, somebody has to pay.
Scrolling through the comments section I felt my blood pressure rise. Strangers were sharing bizarre (and unlikely) personal stories, emotions were getting all wacky, and the trolls were flocking in. I knew I was dipping my toe into the wild waters of a keyboard brawl, so I did what any reasonable person would do: I closed the tab and moved on to the next random cat video on my newsfeed.
….Just kidding. Of course I had to comment.
I wrote about the state of our health care system and the laws that are suffocating providers. I wrote about my own fears of childbirth, and the complications that could arise when I deliver our daughter this February. I mentioned my family members who are nurses and doctors, working the thankless frontlines of our nation’s healthcare system, under the constant-threat of malpractice lawsuits.
And then I realized, for the 100-zillionth time, that I am not changing the world in the comments section of Yahoo Parenting.
I clicked the little “x” that closed the article, and instantly the drama disappeared from my screen. It felt better for a minute. No more witch-hunt, no more torches ready to take the evil hospital out of this world. But this time I couldn’t shake my anger. Because I know that tomorrow there will be another headline. And another. And another.
And I can’t help but wonder how healthcare workers must feel about the fact that our media constantly demonizes them.
The physicians who dedicate their entire youth to rigorous education and exhausting residencies. The nurses who spend their days in the blood, urine, and transmittable diseases of the general public, and still manage to offer smiles while changing a bedpan…these are the people our media keeps marching to the stake.
There are a million different reasons that people lose trust in our healthcare system. Bad experiences, high bills, long wait times, even missed diagnoses. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
What I’m talking about are headlines that blame doctors for a patient’s death, when the physicians can’t breathe a word to defend themselves because of HIPPA. What I’m talking about are HUGE billboards that prey on families whose loved ones died of imminent stroke risk: “Was your loved one taking this drug? Call today!” What I’m talking about are Hollywood fluff-heads being interviewed as credible medical experts on issues as serious as vaccines and public health.
What I’m talking about is a systematic dismantling of trust in the only professionals qualified to help us.
I can’t speak as an expert on many of these dynamics, because the truth is I’m just a mom. Just a blogger who waxes nostalgic over baby’s first words, and rails against the playground bullies down the street. But there is an element to this rampant distrust that I am highly familiar with. Because as a mom, I see it every day.
My two-year old does not understand that there is injustice in the world, and he certainly doesn’t conceive of his own mortality. He lives a happily oblivious life, bouncing from one entertaining activity to the next, until something unpleasant prevents him from moving forward. Sometimes that unpleasantry is a time-out, sometimes it’s a boo-boo. Sometimes it’s a parent-enforced naptime. When Nugget’s world is disrupted with an unexpectedly harsh reality, he instantly looks for someone to blame:
That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works! Who is to blame here?
I believe that we, as a society, have a spiritual and emotional immaturity when it comes to disease and death. It causes us to lash out when things don’t go as planned. We are overly-confident and believe that life should come to us, and it should come easily. We sure as crap don’t like to consider things like mortality.
So when babies die in childbirth, when cancer goes undetected, when a family member receives a nasty diagnosis…people get offended. They get angry. And they look for someone to blame.
You better believe that websites know this when they publish inflammatory stories. They expect your rage and clicks to drive their advertising dollars through the roof. You better believe that there are predatory law firms who know this. They rely on your grief and anger to pay their overhead with frivilous lawsuits. You better believe that there are snake-oil salesmen who know this. They count on the collective distrust of healthcare experts to drive desperate business through their doors.
It’s this blame game that has our country in such a bind.
Healthcare workers are human. They are fallible. There is a place for malpractice and I will not deny that there are bad clinical outcomes which are wholly preventable. Like any profession, there are a percentage of bad apples in the bunch. But what I’m not willing to do is buy into this wholesale distrust of all things healthcare.
If, while I’m bringing my daughter into this world, my doctor strongly advises a c-section, I will trust her. I won’t be happy about it, but I’ll be happy she’s there.
If my son’s nurse walks into the room and encourages a life-protecting vaccine, he will take it. He won’t be happy about it, but we’ll be thankful it’s available.
Yes, I choose to trust the actual experts when it comes to the health of my family. I choose to believe that the bright minds in faded scrubs have our best interests at heart. Regardless of the internet noise and fear-mongering billboards, I choose to trust America’s nurses and doctors.
Call me crazy.