Things that make me mad – laws that convict people trying to do a good deed

This article from our local paper and this one from the Washington Post are both about Lloyd Goldson, a gynaecologist from Kingston who was arrested a week ago for performing an abortion on a twelve year-old girl. Her mother is being charged as well for cruelty to a child. Come to think of it, I’m not sure which child she’s being charged for.

Surprisingly I’ve never ranted before about abortions (or other morally dubious medical strategies). It’s weird, because this is such a passionate topic for me. Ever since high school, the great “abortion debate” has been waged, and I’ve somehow always been the only (or one of the few) pro-choice camper(s). And I use the word ‘debate’ loosely, because I don’t think any number of convincing arguments is going to convince this government to legalize abortions any time soon. Church. State. Nuff said.

So when I heard this tidbit come over the radio this morning on my way to school, I saw red. And it wasn’t just the colour of my school bus. The people behind me were arguing that abortion was illegal, so why do doctors keep doing them anyway? And in class why do they always mention terminating pregnancies so casually, like you can’t potentially lose your license by doing it? That was their argument.

So I turned around and (innocently, innocently I tell you) asked,

So what happen to the asshole who go breed the girl in the first place?

Whereupon they agreed that of course he should be brought to justice as well. But inside I was still churning. They are going to arrest the mother who brought her little girl to the doctor to help her, and the doctor who was trying to do a good thing. Yet the man who either (a) raped this girl or (b) had consensual sex with a minor (and it’s still rape, guys) is walking around scot-free. I find that fundamentally wrong.

I really feel for the doctors when I hear these cases, because they are sworn to “do no harm” but yet have to navigate all kinds of moral morasses in order to preserve life. And before someone gets self-righteous and picket-y, the doctor’s patient was the girl in this case. Not her unborn foetus. Twelve year olds are simply not equipped to have children; and he had to decide if the pregnancy would do more harm than the treatment (i.e. the abortion). If he’s as good a doctor as they say, then he’d have made what he thought was the best decision given the situation. I just hope they don’t lynch him for it.

Story time: Fits and starts

If I miss the exit, can I double back?

For those who don’t know, medicine isn’t my first love. That honour will always go to Literature, writing and the editorial arts. Medicine is pretty much just to pay the bills, but that’s not to say I don’t love it (sometimes -_-). I say this as a prelude to a story that took place one night several years ago, and sort of had its sequel a few days ago.

I’d just gone to buy dinner downtown when I happened across a crowd spilling off the sidewalk into the street. Now it is the nature of Jamaicans to move towards a crowd of people, no matter how hostile or downright threatening they appear. So usually when I see a crowd my MO is to move in the opposite direction as fast as possible. But that night I went closer, and it turned out that there was a lady having a seizure, almost in the middle of the road. She lay there on the ground while people were debating what to do with her

“Put one piece a board in her mouth.” “Use her shoes.” etc. etc. But at the end of the day everybody just stood around watching her. (Now, I know that’s pretty much what you’re supposed to do, not move them or interfere with them in anyway until the seizure has passed – unless they’re having trouble breathing and whatnot – but I didn’t know that then).

I wasn’t able to see the outcome, but what I remember most vividly was a burning desire to help her. Not write an article about the underestimation of epilepsy in Jamaican society, not try to educate the mass media about basic first aid. But to be the person who knew exactly what to do in that situation i.e. a doctor. Or something. And for me, that was a defining moment. That ‘would you rather…’ instant of blinding truth when you realize just what you want for yourself, no frills attached.

And then a couple of days ago I almost walked on top of a girl lying on the street, having just had a seizure. She was twelve years old. No one, save one young lady, was paying her attention. People were literally stepping over her on the sidewalk. She was twelve years old. This time I stopped to help. Not as a medical student, just as a human being with some semblance of concern for this girl (I can’t call her little – she was bigger than me) who was clearly in need of help.

It was a check-up, if you will. A little cosmic tap on the shoulder to inquire ‘do you still want this?’.

And strangely enough – despite the tedium, the challenges and the frustrations; despite the unhappiness that sometimes swathes me like a second skin – strangely enough, I do.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost