Thursday, September 13, 2012

Struck by Dignity

This post conforms to the blog rules.
Another opportunity to think on my feet: I was told to see a returning patient who was following up on pain problem.

The patient told me about her pain and that she figured out what started it all: holding the phone with her head for hours while working around the house. At that time, a new relationship was beginning for her, and she would spend a lot of time on the phone. After a few more minutes of history, I asked her conversationally about that relationship.

She told me it was great! They were finding so much in common and it was a great source of enrichment and joy for her. I could see that it lit up her face. Then, between sentences about how the relationship was flourishing she said, "now, I won't lie to you, it's not a man--it's another woman, and..."

I stopped hearing her for a few words, feeling as though I had been struck. Everything was so normal until that sentence. Now what do I do? Instantly I began to determine how I should receive this news: it is clear that this relationship is more than friendship and I know that homosexual acts are naturally disordered and spiritually harmful. But I am not this woman's doctor and am, in fact, a stranger and a medical student visiting the office for education. But will I give scandal if I calmly smile and nod? I am wearing a crucifix and am therefore a representative of Christ for this woman, who is surely observant enough to notice my necklace.

The patient was concluding, saying that she felt valued in her relationship. I decide to say true things but withhold the truth that is inappropriate to provide. "I am so glad that someone can make you feel the dignity you have as a person, can appreciate your worth," I said.

Her response was almost as shocking to me as the original admission. She was delighted! She said, "that's exactly it," and that I completely understood. She went on about her partner while I went off into thought. Untangling my thoughts later, I wondered:
  1. This woman only found appreciation of her transcendental value in this relationship. This is terribly sad: everyone can appreciate everyone's human dignity...we don't need intimate relationships for this (although I'm sure this love is crowned with greater intimacy).
  2. Is hunger for this appreciation fueling homosexual intimate relationships and the gay marriage drive? 
  3. If there someone else made this woman appreciate her human dignity, her , would she ever want a homosexual relationship?
  4. This woman is missing out on a unique element of marriage: self gift as a woman, to a man. There is so much more to marriage than simple (though profound) appreciation of human dignity.
The patient later told my preceptor that I was "an excellent human being" (I guess, the highest praise of the secular world?). I think I was at least excellent in one thing: I saw what she loved about being loved.


  1. I read your blog regularly and appreciate your commitment to your faith as you make your way through your medical studies. You will be a fine physician with true and deeply held values

    1. Anonymous, thanks for reading. I am very encouraged by words like yours, and my peers and I need all the prayers and sacrifices you can send. Happy feast of Our Lady of Sorrows!