Earlier this month, the Twittersphere erupted with a new hashtag that quickly reached trending status: #transhealthfail
Transgender people are sharing their negative experiences with health care using this hashtag. The experiences range from health care providers suggesting their patients get help elsewhere, even if their problems weren’t related to their sexuality, to blatantly making unprofessional comments about their sexual identity, even going so far as to call transgenderism “disgusting.”
These kinds of comments and experience are extremely common for transgendered people in their daily lives, and their experiences in health care are, unfortunately, not an exception to this rule. Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath, which includes a commitment to treat all people with respect and dignity. A common, modern version of this oath includes the phrase: “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.”
This phrase suggests several important things:
1. Physicians have a special responsibility in our society, which should not be taken lightly. Philosopher John Rawls believes that a “persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live.” Under this kind of theory, physicians need to act in such a way that is befitting to a person entrusted with a position of power over vulnerable people in need of their expertise.
2. Patients, regardless of whether or not you agree with their lifestyle or decision, are a physician’s fellow human beings. This means they are due the same respect and care that one would expect to receive for his- or herself.
3. Physicians have an obligation to all people. Those sound of mind and body, the infirm; rich, poor; young, old, and everything in between. Physicians must treat all people with respect, dignity, and care, regardless of the circumstances.
Health care workers are human, and therefore will make mistakes from time to time. However, they must make a conscious effort to educate themselves when it becomes apparent that there is a need. This is one of those times.