What Is It Like to Treat a Patient Who Has Committed a Horrible Crime?

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April 30 2013 5:03 PM

What Is It Like to Treat a Patient Who Has Committed a Horrible Crime?

Doctors and nurses must treat everyone in need, even criminals.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Lou Davis, emergency nurse, clinical nurse educator:


As a child, my friends and I would play "Opposites," a game in which you had to do, or say, something opposite to what you were actually doing.


Looking after individuals who have committed terrible acts is rather like that. The care I give is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same as I would give to anyone else. I would be as attentive, my standards are as high, I am as diligent in giving pain relief or in ensuring that the wounds I am suturing are done in exactly the same way.

Outwardly then, there is no difference. None at all. You could stand by my side and be able to tell no difference.

Inwardly is rather different.

Over the years, I have treated murderers, rapists, pedophiles. I have carried on working while some of these patients have made comments, been rude or abusive.

I know that my standards have never been compromised.

That isn't to say that I don't have feelings of anger or revulsion or even hate. But it isn't my job to show those feelings.

If I were to act with anything other than the usual care, in my mind, I have demeaned myself and my profession.

I remember treating a particularly unpleasant man several years ago. He had been responsible for several murders, including a child. I was talking to a colleague about my feelings, about how I wished that I hadn't had to look after this person.

My colleague looked at me and said: "Just think to yourself: 'we care for you, not about you' and it will make it easier."

He was right. I have a job to do. Sometimes I may not like it, I may not want to do it, but I will do it to the best of my ability, no matter who the patient happens to be.

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