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May 13

What it means to be human 

Yesterday I had to ask a patient to leave my GP room as they were being physically and verbally aggressive and I feared for my safety. They were angry because they wanted a service that I did not think it was safe or right to give. Some people would say “what a terrible person they must be” or “what a piece of scum” or “[insert expletive] layabout scrounger”. This was the first thought that flashed through my head. Before I stopped to think…

I would like to challenge these kind of reactions. This person was none of these things. This person was a human being, once an innocent child like the children in your life that you love. 
They, like so many others, have been ravaged by physical and mental health challenges, let down by an overstretched underfunded system that never has the time to really stop and listen.
They have had “quick fixes” and short term measures thrown at them until they became dependent on the next “quick fix” because they were never offered the compassion and support needed to find a long one.
They have had a spiral of negativity thrown at them, judged, stereotyped and stigmatised at every turn until the outside becomes the inside and they turn to judging, stereotyping and stigmatising themselves. 
Then the shame, the fear, the malignant guilt kicks in… so they numb it with [insert here drugs, alcohol, food, religion, gambling, shopping etc] and/or they project that pain back out into the world and the cycle of decline continues. 
So no I am not angry with this patient, I am not piteous of them either, because that would be insulting and missing the point. This could happen to ANYONE. I am disappointed and frustrated with a system and society that never gave us the time or the opportunity to really make a difference in that persons life. I am motivated to speak out for change. 
I implore you to think beyond your immediate reactions and question how someone really reaches that point of breaking? Question how it is possible that with all the wealth and prosperity thrown in our faces every day we as a society can allow such a spiral of decline for the many to go unchecked in the interest of further bettering the already better lives of the few? 
None of us are where we are in life because we are special or better than anyone else. We are where and who we are because of the exposures, experiences and opportunities presented to us. We know this from scientific research, we even use it to predict disease/risks and design medication and treatment regimes.  
Yet we rarely apply it in the reality of social interactions, preferring instead to blame individuals for the state of their existence. This is a misconception we buy into at our own peril and at the peril of the progress of our societies and our species. This belief segregates and isolates those most in need of care and opportunity. It holds us back from enlightened social progress and demonises and degrades the most vulnerable.
Elections are coming people… stop. Take a breath. Think. Try to think past what will benefit you to what will benefit the most of us. Try to think past protecting yourself and your loved ones to protecting the most vulnerable. Try to think past your opportunities to the opportunities we could bring to those most in need. Try to imagine what you would vote for if you or one of your loved ones was isolated, marginalised and vulnerable through no fault other than the risks of being human. 
And then, only after you have tried to consider this truly, then make your decision. The future is not written, it is what we make it…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.clairemariethomas.com/2017/05/what-it-means-to-be-human/

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