Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of TB and Humanity

In reference to my post of several days ago, my patient turned out to be most cooperative and forthcoming, despite his current house arrest. With family members by his side, we reviewed his four-drug regimen, discussed his side effects, as well as the expected course of treatment.

Deciding that it was worth broaching, I launched into a brief diatribe about how people often associate TB with poverty, and a diagnosis of TB in a poor person, a person of color, or an immigrant can often feed into stereotypes and bigotry. Looking them each in the eye, I assured them that we would do our best to make sure that this does not happen, and that any public statements made about the state of TB in our community would be worded in such a way as to circumvent xenophobic thinking.

There are many diseases that cross all racial and socioeconomic boundaries. I want my patients to feel that they will not be targeted for their diagnosis, and that they are not judged for having developed such a disease. Beyond case management, medication side effects and epidemiology, we are dealing with the feelings of human beings, and their humanity must always remain foremost in our minds as we navigate the waters of disease management and treatment.

I am off to a good start with this patient and his family. We made the human connection, and that connection will serve us well as the weeks and months go by. May I always hold my patients' humanity above all else, because if humanity is honored, the rest will naturally follow.
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