Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Dignity

Dignity seems to me to be an odd quality; I wonder if it means different things to different people. Most words do. I suspect we all ant to be accorded our dignity, while at the same time wanting the right to conduct ourselves in any manner we wish, dignified or otherwise. We can give it away as we choose, but no-one can take it. Or rather, no-one should take it.

I see many people conduct themselves with quiet dignity, often in conditions of extreme stress, and others behave abysmally, often under much less stress. Or, at least, what I perceive as less stress. We all react differently to different stressors. It seems to me, however, that my generation, and thise that have come after me, don't like stress, or rather, don't deal with it. At least, not well. I can't work out if I think this is part of a wider sense of entitlement, or just so. There's something to be said for being involved in whatever goes on around you, and, sadly it is usually the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. And everyone likes grease.

But there seems to be a pervading idea that you can behave however you want in an hospital, and that's just fine. That your illness excuses your behaviour. That you don't normally behave like that. It's the pain; or the drink. Or something. I'm sure there is a degree of truth in that, but not everyone behaves like an arse, so I'm afraid it is you.

Perhaps it is just to be expected, living at the sharp edge of life, where everything seems to be changing so very quickly, where everything seems of vital importance. We lose perspective. Should we care about our dignity? Is it important? Who really cares?

I once treated a man who became unwell after drinking too much. He was young, but had a significant cardiac, and neurological history - I think. Maybe just one of those. Either way, he self medicated with a lot of beer, on that particular evening at least, then passed out. He soiled himself, with every effluent available to him. When, as part of my resuscitation efforts, I went to catheterise him, he woke up long enough to demand I left him his dignity.

Different things to different people.