Compassion Fatigue

I checked Wikipedia and saw that compassion is an “emotion we feel in response to suffering and which motivates our desire to help.”

A Tweet from a local reporter triggered a discussion on Facebook about the definition of compassion and whether there is compassion in a certain hospital that is supposedly one of the best in the country. Several blog posts have shown how the reporter got it right or got it wrong.

The problem with Twitter is it doesn’t give ample word space to present a dissertation on the dismal healthcare system in this country; the hospital just illustrates the brokenness of this system in all its microcospic glory.

What I didn’t like of the report which I watched on YouTube is it didn’t present a satisfying analysis on why there is a seeming lack of compassion in the hospital she mentioned.

Of course I am biased. But aren’t we all? Aren’t we more apt to give kind regard to those that are familiar?

Healthcare workers (and of course that include doctors) are human too. And yes, that is NOT an excuse to be cruel to patients. However, one should not judge unless one has been in someone’s shoes (or slippers, for that matter).

Cruelty should have gradations, I think. Sometimes one feels that being cruel is the most expedient way to be kind. In the movie/book, Sophie’s Choice, Sophie had to choose between her two children; which of them would live or die. Sophie was a Jew during the holocaust. Should I hate Sophie for choosing one of her child over the other?

In this country, in a lot of places, actually, compassion fatigue sets in because we have been given the unenviable task to choose who will live or who will die. Or who will get healthcare and who will not. Resources — which include our energy, our time, and yes, our compassion — are finite. We had to choose.

It may not have shown in our faces, in the abrupt way we turned that 100th patient away, the weary and sarcastic manner we told someone that she had to have money to rent a ventilator. It may not have been obvious to the television cameras –but doing what we did took away a part of our soul.  And we acknowledge that.

Healthcare workers are made to do a Sophie’s Choice everyday they work in the public healthcare system.  A far-from-perfect  system which does not help make the act of choosing an easy one.