Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal is a big deal for the medical profession : The end of “if”

Did your family doctor/pedatrician ask you when you were a kid, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

When you told her/him the answer did he/she say,”I’m sorry, you can only be a policeman/fireman/teacher/brigadier general ‘if’.”

I’m sure they didn’t – they were asking, like I would ask any patient, to tempt you with your future potential and begin a lifelong healing relationship, to be available to you as your parents would be, to help you achieve your life goals. The doctor patient relationship should be the last place where constraints are placed on a person’s achievement in health or in life.

The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell brings us closer to the end of “if,” as in “you can realize your life’s potential ‘if’ you are a…”  man/white/heterosexual/etc etc.

The medical school class after mine was the first one that had more women than men in it. No one knew how many lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender students there were, they didn’t ask.

The American Medical Association took a strong stand against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It called for a full repeal in November, 2009, and these letters were sent to Congress in support. I applaud their efforts.

This piece was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, written by Kenneth Katz, and discusses the health hazards of the policy, which harms the therapeutic relationship between patient and physician. (It’s behind a paywall, but you can find a blog post by the author here)

This change is great, both for the makeup of the medical profession, and the way we are able to support the people we serve. Health care is healthier, communities are better off, when more of a person can be brought into interaction. This applies not only to diversity but all kinds of participation.

One of the coolest, I’ll say touching bordering on tearful, experiences I had in November, 2008, was when I was shadowing in a medical office:

A mother was there with her child, a boy aged about 5. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said, “The president!” I don’t know who said what came next, but it was said:  “and now you can be.” This was an African American family. Love always wins.

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Ted Eytan, MD