As a physician, I was taught to remain neutral in the public eye regarding political issues. My viewpoints and opinions do not enter my work because the work is not about me but about the person sitting across from me who seeks help. As a psychiatrist and ethicist, I treat all people with respect, compassion, and dignity. I believe in my duty to treat patients, regardless of who they are, the positions they may take, and the beliefs they may hold.
In my office, we are two humans, and I am interested in you. However, outside of my office, I feel a duty to speak out and participate in advocacy. By not speaking out, physicians abandon the public and take with them knowledge and experience that have a bearing on many of the political decisions being made today.
If we do not show up, it may seem that medical professionals are just as divided as the public on important topics such as abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, physicians’ duty to treat, suicide, and more. In truth, there is overwhelming agreement on the medical side, and these positions should be shared with the public.
Patients are clearly and repeatedly impacted by political decisions. As a physician, I do not believe we should continue to support a false barrier between politics and medicine because we are uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is okay.
As a business owner, I may be impacted by engaging in advocacy. For me, there is a personal risk because I am sure my positions differ from many of my patients. Having differences is okay. What is not okay is staying silent as people are harmed by legislation that seeks to interfere with medical care.
If I stay silent, I am causing harm. As your physician, I promise to treat you without judgment or bias. You have my unconditional positive regard, and I am honored to work with you. I hope you can trust me to always respect you, even if we differ on political issues.
Meghan Sheehan is a board-certified psychiatrist who completed fellowship training in consultation-liaison psychiatry. She is founder, Specialized Psychiatry, LLC, and can be reached on Facebook.