Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ethics lunch

today i had the fortune to attend a free lunch seminar. any good med student knows the secret to free lunch is to sit through a meeting...usually they're boring but today's talk was about guantanamo bay. it was given by a doctor who was assigned to go there for 6 months and serve the medical needs of all the detainees.

the main gist of the talk was to point out all the headlines that say that medical ethics were/are violated, etc, at GTMO. he also talked about the physician-patient model down there, how it's important that the medical team distance itself from the interrogators and the security people. he discussed the various lengths they go to for the detainees' medical care and whatnot. all of that was very informative...basically, everything there is "patient first". that's how it is here. he said that it was a bit difficult to treat people at times, but as a doctor he was ethically bound to serve the needs of the patient, even if it went against what the interrogators/security/etc wanted. i can definitely agree with that. he talked about how it was hard to earn the trust of the patients and raised some ethical questions for the audience to ponder.

the tides changed though once the floor was open for comments and questions. some people praised the speaker for his ability to "help those that hurt us". eh, i wasn't impressed with the gravity of his job...he's a doctor. he just happened to be assigned to GTMO. he cared for his patients. that's his job. same if someone were taking care of prisoners in the local jail or people who want abortions or whatever...he did his job, and he did it because that's what doctors are supposed to do. it sucks (i suppose) that he was assigned to GTMO, rather than caring for americans in iraq or civilians at a US base, but he did his job. he's military...you do your job, no questions asked.

one person asked about what would happen when the new admin comes around (since obama is pledging to shut down GTMO). i thought that was a weird question...this is a doctor. he doesn't meddle with the security or placement or whatever, he's just a doctor. next question.

another person stated that he didn't understand why the speaker was speaking about his experience. turns out, the speaker was still active reserve. (did i state that correctly? basically, the doctor was still on the military's tab.) did the speaker have the right to talk about his experience at GTMO? was he violating his loyalty to the government? it was interesting that the speaker didn't disclose his "affiliations" at the beginning of the talk. usually, if you have a tie to whatever company or organization, you have to state it at the beginning of your talk. lots of people have gotten in trouble for not disclosing relationships.

so yeah, it made for an interesting talk. i didn't agree with all the "implied politics" the speaker put forth, but it was fairly informative. i would assume it would be hard to remain objective when talking about GTMO...as the speaker said "you either have been there, or you haven't". the military certainly isn't going to let someone like me go and take a tour! it was worth sitting through to eat my free ham sandwich...ha!

i must say though that i am glad to know that obama is pledging to shut down GTMO. granted, i know it's important to have prisons, etc, for whatever reasons, but saying "guantanamo bay" just really brings up bad connotations and whatnot from all kinds of people...it's best to just shut it down. if the united states really wants to retain (or regain?) its status as "best country in the world" or whatever, i think the new administration will really need to work hard on reestablishing its moral and ethical positions. give the foreign prisoners the same due process as an american prisoner. don't torture people. be fair. (now i don't know if torture really is happening or not happening, but it shouldn't happen. the "best country ever" should not be reduced to torturing people to get their info. if the united states doesn't have information on whatever topic, that means we weren't doing our job to begin with.)

to all my future patients out there, whoever you may be, just know that if i am your doctor, i will be doing my best to provide you with unbiased care. also know that if i can't help you, i will do all i can to refer you to someone who will. i hope the same would be done for me. (ok, end the cheesiness...haha!)

No comments: