When Hospital Rooms Become Prisons

May 5, 2016

(New York Times) – Michael was also vomiting, having diarrhea and crying: signs of opiate withdrawal. He was homeless and had lost a lot of weight while living on the streets. In many ways, he was like other patients I had cared for. Except that his hospital room became the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency. Every time we spoke, a third body impinged upon our patient-doctor relationship. I took an oath to protect patient confidentiality, yet every guard knew the intimate details of Michael’s medical history, including his H.I.V. status. I felt myself whispering to protect whatever shred of dignity remained.