Medicine Should Be About Care, Not Self-Righteousness

I am not, nor ever have been, a medical professional. I am also among the 61% of Americans that do not consider ourselves “pro-life.”

But there was something profoundly unsettling about the walk-out of incoming med school students at University of Michigan’s medical school convocation last week:

Dr. Collier is one of the most popular professors at University of Michigan Medical School. That’s why she was selected, by a combination of students and faculty, to be the keynote speaker for the “white coat” ceremony, in which incoming med school students get their symbolic professional jacket.

Why the walkout? It’s because Dr. Collier also happens to be among the 39% of Americans who define themselves to be “pro-life.” OK. That’s a rational, quite common viewpoint on a complex issue.

Now, she didn’t even speak to abortion at all. Her keynote address was far more general, and inspiring. It was that physicians should do everything possible to keep from being a machine. They should not perceive themselves as “task-completers,” but rather a physician, a human who cares. That they should be grateful. Appreciate a team.

She chose not to delve into abortion as a topic at all. But what if she had? What if she had decided to mention (gasp) her own perspective of a pro-life medical professional? Is that so appalling that it must be shunned? Is there no learning that’s possible by hearing that viewpoint out?

As it happened, dozens of students didn’t hear that message, because they preemptively walked out, before her address. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that medical care should begin with empathy, and empathy begins with listening. We can, and must, tolerate and listen to perspectives other than our own.

More than any generation I can remember, far too many young adults that we are raising seem to be interested in hearing out viewpoints other than their own. They even think it’s noble to shut out those views.

39% of Americans — more than one out of every three — declare that they are “pro-life.”

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