Archive for July, 2008

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Treatment Refusal

July 30, 2008

While riding the jeep to school, I overheard this conversation.
“You’re now a diabetic?” a woman said to a man, who was obviously her friend. She wore what seemed to be a uniform of some generic office. He, on the other hand, was wearing home clothing.
“That’s what the doctor said,” the man said.
“You should go natural,” the woman said. “Don’t drink. Don’t eat too much. Go natural. Exercise.”
“No,” he said in obvious denial of his condition, “I feel fine.”
“Your condition might worsen,” she said. “You’ll end up injecting yourself with expensive medicine everyday.”
“I don’t care what the doctor says,” he said. “As long as I feel fine, I’ll do the same things I do normally.”
Now I must admit that I have a strange sense of humor. I don’t know how other medical students would react to this situation, but I just smiled. Call it weird, but I can’t help but imagine what this man in the future might look like. He’ll be weak, thin, and wasted. He’ll also be mouthing his regret over not changing his ways. Yet by that time, there would no longer be any major benefit from his reformation. He’d either end up dead or be sick for a long time.
To anyone think that I have a sadistic streak, “stop it”. I was just amused by the man’s stubbornness. It would allow him to enjoy a happy lifetime, but it would be a shorter lifetime. Also, I greatly respect autonomy. As long as an adult individual has sufficient mental capacity, he has the right to undergo or refuse treatment. The smile was also brought about by a small streak of what my future would bring. I’d be handling stubborn patients like him, who wouldn’t follow my instructions. Call it grim humor, because that’s what it is.
My smile was noticed by the woman. I believe she also noted my distinct* white uniform and the giant Pediatrics book I was holding because she turned the man’s attention to me.
“Am I speaking right?” she asked, and then turned to the man. “He’s a medical student, a future doctor.”
Trying to hide the grimace building up from her last statement, I nodded and smiled at them. No matter what I’d say, the man would still stick to his ways. If he didn’t believe what his doctor told him, he wouldn’t believe what a “future doctor”** would tell him. I left them shortly afterward.
I just knew the woman would still be trying to convince the man. The man, however, would not follow her. I consoled myself that the decision was his to make. Then I had an insight:
Doctors, ultimately, have a vital goal in order to fulfill their calling. They may know how to diagnose, cure, or manage a disease or condition. Yet their vital goal is to first convince their patients to agree to get well.

*Our uniforms are different from the Nursing students’ uniforms.
** Somehow, this just makes me cringe. There’s still about 5 years to go before I can claim the coveted MD degree.

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Rice Rumor

July 3, 2008

Rumor has it that a grave tragedy struck one family here in my city.
They were a poor family as the fact that the father has to line up everyday to buy National Food Authority (NFA) subsidized rice. They couldn’t afford commercial rice, which costs about twice that of NFA subsidized rice. As luck would have it, the shop had sold all of its stock before the father’s turn came. He went home, cooked whatever rice they had left, and laced it with poison. The rest of the family ate, not knowing about the extra ingredient in their rice. In the end, the whole family died.
Now I could not confirm the validity of this rumor. It was said to happen to the patients of a nurse who was the niece of a family friend who then informed my parents. Yet the fact that such a rumor could spread speaks much about the current rice crisis.
There is rice for all. The problem, however, is that not everyone can afford commercially priced rice. Those who can’t afford this commodity line up everyday under the sweltering heat or the freezing rain to buy a few kilos of it. And in that population, not everyone is lucky. Sometimes, supply runs out before their turn to buy comes. My parents overheard two unlucky would-be-buyers. They said those would-be-buyers told each other to buy boiled bananas, just so they can fill their stomachs with something other than the elusive rice.
I also keep overhearing other passengers in the jeep talking about the price of rice. Others curse the President for hyping up what could have been a controllable rice supply situation just so she can avoid the public outcry against her supposed corrupt practices. Others bemoan the fact that rice is plentiful, but is only available to those who can afford it.
The crisis made me realize that rice had never been so precious to me until now. I used to view it even with minor contempt, and often left many of its grains in my plates. Now I get to think about the sweat of the farmers planting it, the typhoons wiping out entire crops of it, the queues forming for cheaper varieties of it, the back breaking labor of transporting it, the penalties of hoarding it, and ironically even the ease of preparing or buying it.
Truly, the rice crisis is a tragedy…