June 25, 2012 2:57 pm Dr. Webster Leave a Comment (Edit)
One of my favorite movies of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. This Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic story, first published in 1960, later became the Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Robert Duvall as Arthur “Boo” Radley.
Each time I view the movie my heart goes pitter-patter with anxiety, frustration and anger. Yet I am also comforted by the warm and genuine compassion of Atticus toward others despite the potential for personal harm. It appeared to others that Atticus had a conflict but to him there was no conflict. There was only right and wrong, good and evil. Scout, the daughter of Atticus asked her father why he was defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl if the townspeople didn’t want him to? Atticus says he couldn’t hold his head up if he didn’t.
Atticus followed his conscience and acted with a moral compass we wish existed with all mankind. This is an inspiring moment in the movie for people who like to be guided by their heart. His act of selflessness tells us how difficult it can get when not siding with the predominate view of a community.
Every day pain physicians across the country face similar situations. Patients come to clinics desperate to be heard and validated. Often these patients have been castigated by other physicians, friends, and sometimes family. As humans we seem to want to distant ourselves from the unhealthy.
People with pain desperately yearn for an Atticus. Patients just want someone to help them defend against the indignity and humiliation of what has been robbed from them by pain. They want someone to fight for them.
I have been surprised by the number of people who seem to have a surge of happiness, joy or well-being by just having their pain acknowledged. This is a real effect and as powerful as opium to some and maybe more sustainable. The human connection heals.
It saddens me that so many people suffer from pain and so many other people seem not to care. What does this say about us? Pain seems to frighten the healthy.
Boo is the kind, silent friend who has only one feeling-compassion. Although emotionally traumatized, his heroic actions saved Scout and her brother from evil. Where are the Boo’s? Where are the Atticus’s in our lives?
There is a hunger for connection and love from the time we are born until death. It is part of being human . When we are in pain and are pushed away it eats at us like a cancer. Healing cannot occur.
As physicians we want to hold our head up even in the midst of turmoil when it is easier to ignore suffering than embrace the sufferer. But what people in pain need is a Boo. Hey Boo!
Lynn Webster, MD
Filed Under: Pain Medication Abuse