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Jul
19

Shackled

I’ve gotten in trouble for taking nursing shows like HawthoRNe and Mercy too seriously in the past. So I’ve stayed mute on the subject recently and tried to let y’all enjoy your TV without any editorializing from yours truly. 😉

But a recent episode of HawthoRNe had my head spinning and I just have to process through it. Not because of silly plot lines or characters – the show’s first few episodes of the second season have actually been a vast improvement.

No, this time the story featured the question of whether to treat a death row inmate who needed lifesaving neurosurgery. At first our heroine Christina Hawthorne thought it pointless to save a man who was only going to be executed 9 months later. Until she spoke with him and heard how he had turned his life around. Apparently because he was now a worthy human being he deserved the surgery, and she fought tooth and nail to get him his operation.

But then a victim’s family member tracked her down and told her what a monster he was. All of a sudden he was no longer deserving. She still got him to surgery, but begrudgingly.

My question is this: Since when are health care professionals also judge and jury? I understand the argument that the state spending so much money on a man who’s going to be executed anyway seems wasteful, and we can debate the politics of the death penalty on another day, but this is not about politics. When a patient comes to our door, are we not obligated to provide the best care we can, even if their ankle is cuffed to the bed? Or is that completely naive of me?

My hospital has contracts with prisons and our local county jail, so we see our fair share of inmate patients. We’ve been encouraged NOT to find out what it is they’re in for, because it could potentially affect our care. I think that’s a good policy.

HawthoRNe disturbed me last night because it showed our main character providing quality nursing care only when she thought the prisoner deserved it. She advocated for him only when she realized he had sought redemption and achieved it. And when she realized the extent and human impact of his crimes, it appeared that she regretted advocating for him at all. Since when does she get to decide?

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