Surgical Gods

i am indebted – if that can possibly be an appropriate word here – to Christine Burns for publicising the following appalling tale, reported today in Adelaide Now.

A woman in Adelaide Australia is suing a surgeon for removing her clitoris without her consent.

What? Well, the matter is currently before the courts, so evidence still to come. However, the gist of the matter seems to be that a Ms DeWaegeneire underwent surgery some years back for removal of skin from her vulva that had been diagnosed as pre-cancerous.

The surgeon then proceeded to remover her clitoris as well. At issue is whether she was informed and whether the surgeon acted in her best intersts. Ms D claims that she was not informed of the procedure until seconds away from going unde due to the anaesthetic and, had she been remotely aware of the possibility of this happening, would have walked – and taken her chances with the cancer.

The surgeon, by contrast, claims that this was not how the matter had gone and that he had merely been trying to save her life.

Whilst there is evidence still to be heard, one exchange may turn out to be crucial. According to prosecuting counsel, the court will hear evidence from a nurse who questioned the surgeon’s decision.

According to the newspaper, the nurse allegedly told police she asked the doctor: “That’s fairly radical surgery. Why are you taking so much?'”

He allegedly replied: “If I don’t take it all the cancer will spread.”

Nurse: “You would not be taking my clitoris no matter what.”

Doctor: “Her husband’s dead so it doesn’t matter anyway.”

Oh. One can see the doctor’s logic here. See it – and reject it. This is not the first time i have encountered this sort of medical arrogance – ignorance, even – over female sexual function.

I am maintaining a casebook of such stories, hopefully for eventual publication in the UK.

Bottom line is something quite rotten in the state of surgery the world over. Sure: being a surgeon is a tough job. Its also not much of a “people” job. Surgeons spend their lives dealing with patients as so much meat and anatomy.

Their focus is on cutting and mending and stitching – something they undoubtedly do very effectively. But they aren’t really focussed on the whole person: the feelings, the emotions. The autonomy.

The idea that someone would genuinely prefer to die rather than undergo certain surgery seems prtty alien to them. After all, if you live within a single track moral spectrum, within which life is the highest ideal and supposedly trumps all other considerations, you miss a lot.

You start to think you know best: and if a patient has other ideas, well…they must be wrong. Deluded.

This case, along with so many of the others i now have, is one of the best arguments for taking medical decisions away from the “experts”. The UK coalition government is pursuing a policy in the NHS of “nothing about us without us”. That is, patients should get to be full partners in all medical decisions.

One hopes that those who have carved careers for themselves in the Gender identity sphere are listening.

Because on the evidence to date, one of the first faculties that appears to atrophy in respect of medical professionals is their ability to hear. Strangely though, this affliction is selective, with most medical bods continue to interact with one another perfectly well.

Its just the patients they seem incapable of hearing.



About janefae

On my way from here to there
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3 Responses to Surgical Gods

  1. Demelza says:

    Reminds me, in a fictional and trivial vein, of an episode of “The Royal”. One of the senior nuns at the convent where Sister Bridget lived was admitted with life threatening haemorraging from fibroids. Mr Rose, ever the sympathetic figure, took his pipe out of his mouth and quipped “Don’t worry, we’ll soon whip it all out and you’ll be right as rain” (or something similar).

    That night, Sister Bridget hears her sobbing in the ward. On going to find out what’s wrong, the forty-something nun wails “I can now never have children”. Of course, she was never going to, but that’s not the point.

    While the spheres are different – reproductive function versus sexual function – the dismissal of the patient’s retain the function, albeit unused, is common, and wrong.

  2. Julian says:

    Funnily enough this cropped up in a book I was reading recently: “no testicle is ever bad enough to remove and no ovary is ever good enough to leave in.” I’ll try to recall which book it was in… I think it might have been

  3. Julian says:

    Funnily enough this cropped up in a book I was reading recently: “no testicle is ever bad enough to remove and no ovary is ever good enough to leave in.” I’ll try to recall which book it was in…

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