I often have unpleasant interactions with patients in NYC. It is just one of those things that you expect to happen in an urban hospital. I see alcoholics who swear and cuss at everyone close enough for their blurry eyes to make out, drug addicts who threaten to go crazy if they don't get their drugs, and people infected with AIDS and hepatitis who hurl their body fluids at the nurses to make their point. Lets not even mention the paranoid schizophrenics that stab people with their forks, but somehow I have less animosity towards them because I feel that their excuse for lack of self control is more legitimate than the others that I mentioned earlier.
This week, I had another such pleasant interaction with a young man admitted for pain. His pain has been ongoing for years and he mentioned being to more emergency rooms than he could count. I checked his past records and saw numerous normal x-rays, cat scans, and lab tests. These same studies were repeated during this latest visit, and were once again completely normal. However, he has already gotten some morphine and wanted more of it. His behavior was classic for someone seeking drugs.
So, I told him that he would not receive any more narcotics unless I found a justified reason to administer such medications, and he went ballistic. He tore up the room, damaged expensive medical equipment and made a few decorative changes to the nearby walls. The police arrived, he calmed down and to my surprise, no one wanted to bring up charges against him. None of the administrators, nor the hospital police thought it would be appropriate to have him arrested. If you account for everything destroyed, it would likely be in the range of 20,000 dollars.
sarc/ No matter, our taxes will pay for it. /sarc.
Why am I so unsettled after this encounter when I had countless similar other encounters? It became obvious to me that the idea of personal responsibility is dead in this culture. Maybe not in the rural mid-west, but certainly here in NYC and many other big cities. We have become a nation of destroyers and we will self-destruct.
One other item worth mentioning: The violent young man, the police, and the administrator were all black. Someone could say that race had nothing to do with the way this incident was handled, but then there is that whole George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin spectacle going on now.