My Thoughts on Punitive Medicine
Nothing in EMS angers me more than punitive medicine, which can easily be defined as not properly treating a patient based on their “station” in life. I have recently heard fellow providers brag about using unnecessarily large IV’s, with holding pain management, and perhaps worse of all flipping a patient upside down on a back board. These acts, and others like them, are without a doubt deplorable. I am ashamed to call anyone who “practices” this type of medicine a colleague.
I know we have all responded to that one address that calls at few times every week. What happens if this time the chest pain is not a cry of the lonely but an MI? You know the one that was missed because old Mrs. Jones calls for this very same reason at least three times every week so we didn’t do an assessment or talked her into refusing care because she’s just lonely? Sign here ma’am. Call us back any time. Empty words. Or how about the drug addict? Should we treat him any different because he’s asking for his problem and should be able to control his addiction? Then there is the inmate. 16-gauge IV just because we can, right? Single mom with three kids who called for a child with a runny nose? She should have taken him to the doctor Friday instead of interrupting our nap time. I could easily list several more examples.
As professionals, we need to remember that every patient we meet is somebody to someone. Why is it we feel superior in our dealings with such individuals that we feel the need to pass judgement? How is that in any way our right? As professionals, we should not judge simply because we have not walked a mile in our patient’s moccasins. We cannot say “well I wouldn’t” because we have no idea how we would handle those experiences. Our actions, either appropriate or inappropriate, leave a lasting impression on our patient. How do you want to be remembered?
First do no harm. I know that was part of my education in EMS, as well it should have been. It should have been part of your education too. It is my opinion that punitive medicine goes against the very core of this idea and is morally and ethically wrong. In utilizing punitive medicine, we lower ourselves to the least common dominator, making our profession look heartless and uncaring. Is that how we want the public to see us?
I would like to close with two Bible verses. James 4:17 If you don’t do what you know is right, you have sinned. Luke 6:31 Treat others just as you want to be treated. Christian or not, good words to live by, not only as we take care of the people entrusted to us but also as we deal in our day to day lives.