This month was the New York premier for Vessel, a documentary about Women on Waves (WoW). It’s a sad reality that an organization like WoW is needed today.
Dutch physician, human rights activist and artist, Rebecca Gomperts, founded WoW in 1999 to perform safe abortions and support desperate women in countries where this procedure is illegal.
Stationed on a ship, Gomperts’ crew uses the laws governing international waters to bring abortions and contraceptive services to women with no other alternative.
Despite legal, political, religious and logistical hurdles, Gomperts and her team are persevering with creative solutions that enable them to educate and empower women around the world to have more say in the policies that are being made about their bodies.
Although abortion is legal in the United States, with mounting restrictions surrounding it and women’s contraceptive rights, WoW may be sailing our way soon.
Additionally, individual states can restrict abortion policy. Texas, for example, has been severely affected by controversial anti-abortion law.
Before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, illegal abortions harmed and killed many women in the U.S. According to one study, one in four deaths among Caucasian women and one in two among African American women were caused by abortions in the early 1960s.
WoW’s message is simple: we need to put the power back in women’s hands. Making abortions safe, legal and accessible should be our goal.
It’s difficult to receive a serious diagnosis. Sometimes, it’s even harder to tell the world about it. This is challenging for the patient, and the doctor.
How does the clinician decide to reveal a diagnosis like Parkinson’s Disease or Bipolar Disorder? When should the doctor stop practicing?
Is it ever acceptable, or possibly even necessary, for the clinician to deceive the patient?
Sometimes it takes the doctor years to accept and admit what’s going on inside her body. There’s an additional, unique level of complexity for the clinician—her diagnosis can compromise the patient’s care.
The sick doctor feels weak, wounded and unable to carry out her tasks. Being the subject of conversation feels unnatural for the clinician who is used to the patient fulfilling this role.
The doctor’s colleague is often too polite to say anything even though she knows there’s something wrong. In fact, it’s often the patient who offers the clinician advice: ‘You look like my grandfather who had...’
What does this say about the culture of medicine? Does the patient feel empowered to say these things while the doctor does not?
The clinician may be reluctant to look at the faults of her colleague because this could unveil something about her own faults as well. The doctor may wish to share her diagnosis with the patient but choose not to since this would expose her weakness, and that seems unacceptable.
There’s an ongoing, ethical debate about the extent to which the clinician should admit her day-to-day frailties when she’s about to do something really important that affects the life of the patient. This is a factor for the doctor who is sick as well as the tired, sleep-deprived surgeon who was up all night on-call and is now operating on her patient the next morning.
The regulatory College requires the doctor to disclose conditions that may affect her ability to practice medicine safely. As painful as this is, it’s something every clinician needs to think about.
When does the doctor cross this line? How does the clinician know when she has reached the point where she’s possibly doing harm to the patient, or needs to ask for help?
The doctor may be afraid to ask for this help. Yet, she needs to be aware of this deficiency and willing to admit it to her colleague. In turn, the colleague needs to support her emotionally, and help the clinician make sure she’s practicing safely.