Video Transcript: Why Shouldn’t Providers Judge Patients’ Choices?

Nia Zalamea, MD, FACS, General Surgeon, Church Health Center

I think the reason why it’s so important not to judge is twofold.

The first is that it leads to some dangerous behaviors. Dangerous behaviors primarily are assumptions, and assuming that we understand where a person comes from and why they make the decisions they make. Similar to navigating a map, it can lead us in directions that leave us completely lost as a clinician, but also might lead us to lead our patients and our partners in ways that will leave them in grave danger in terms of clinical decision making. You think that’s it’s an economic decision, no, it’s a faith-based decision they’re making. Yes, we think that it’s a family-based decision, no, it’s actually a professional sort of decision they’re making.

So the first danger I think in judging is that we make assumptions. We’re limiting how much information we get, and there’s no communication.

The second is that there’s really no compassion in judging. We tend to build walls around our hearts and also around our minds in terms of being able to think clinically and effectively about what’s going on. We’re limiting the amount of data that come in how to help us make the best clinical decision or as partners in our relationships.

And so I think the other aspect of it is that we have several decades, if not centuries, of judging behind us. We see where it’s led us in terms of race, in terms of religion, in terms of gender, and it’s led us really in some very dark things that we continue to deal with especially in the US — housing and loans and the environment and waste processing. And those judgments, I think, are based on very categorical relationships that are limiting not just as an individual but as a society.

So the injustices around socioeconomics, around gender, around race are further reinforced when even a clinician judges a patient.