How dare you, America

I grew up with one guiding principle.  One religion.  One stone temple that I bowed to faithfully.  I kneeled at the glorious shrine of medicine.  It was the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life.

My education was vigorous.  I stayed at home and studied while my high school buddies were goofing around at the mall.  I spent quiet Saturday mornings in the law library while over a hundred thousand of my fellow students, neighbors, and out of state fans cheered on my college football team.

I devoted almost every second of my time and hundreds of thousands of dollars between the ages of 22 and 29 to become the thing I admired most in life—a doctor.

What were you doing on September 11th, 2001?  I was a third-year resident battling death and destruction every day in the bone marrow transplant unit.  I was watching people die helplessly in front of my eyes as my blood-soaked hands broke their ribs while trying to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on their leukemia riddled bodies.

Medicine took everything I had.  It turned the comedic, optimistic, and empathic young person and stole my innocence, my humor, and many times my humanity.

The person spit out from this educational system was markedly different.  Melancholy, hardened, and stoic.  I accepted these things that have never escaped my notice.  The cost of service is great.  The calling is just that: a calling.

Someone has to do it.

Over the last two decades as an attending physician, I have become disillusioned with medicine.  The pure goodness and joy that I dreamed about as a child were still there, but progressively extinguished by a broken, accusatory, and often unnecessarily bureaucratic and self-serving system.

I have been challenged ethically by a government and private health insurance that chooses to tie my hands when I clearly know the right thing to do.

I have been challenged morally by hospital systems and administrators who take advantage of my willingness to do the right thing even when it has negative impacts on my personal rights.

I have been challenged legally by a malpractice system that points fingers, costs millions, and leaves everybody but the plaintiff’s lawyers with scars.

And I have been abused by a populace so full of anger and mistrust that most of the time, I was being yelled at far more often than I was being praised.

So I left.  I ended my lifelong four-decade love affair with my childhood dream.  I came to the gut-wrenching decision that I was a victim of abuse—abused by the government, by administrators, by patients, by the legal system, by society.

And as hard as it has been to let go of just about everything I have based my identity on, it has felt so good to divorce myself from this abuse.  My panic attacks have resolved.  My constant fears of being called out and harangued have disappeared.  My humor, compassion, and empathy are slowly returning.

How dare you, America.

How dare you talk of conscripting me to come back in the midst of this mess that my brethren have begged you to take seriously.

How dare you ask me to come to the rescue of my abusers when all of a sudden they realize they need me.

How dare you call on my sense of morals while you are withholding personal protective equipment, firing my colleagues for speaking up, and cutting peers’ wages and instituting furloughs.

How dare you place this burden on my family and me when you are not even willing to stay in your homes, wear masks, or risk your own financial well-being.

How dare you ask me to go to battle without the right weapons when you sit on your perch in statehouses and in our national capital and deceive our populace.

How dare you complain about physician wages and then ask us to go to the front lines and die for free.

How dare you, America.

How dare you try to take the higher moral ground.

The author is an anonymous physician.

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