The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 (the “coronavirus”) has touched all of us. Many are getting ill and too many are dying from the infection. To make matters worse, the economy has tanked because of all the necessary measures taken to decrease the number of people infected.
Medical personnel are on the front lines of this battle. Our gastroenterology clinic has had to deal with the realities of protecting patients as well as all of the doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and the members of our patient services staff from contracting coronavirus. This has led to restriction of office visits and cancellation of nearly all our outpatient endoscopic procedures.
However, we still need to deal with emergency cases at the hospital where, of course, the sickest coronavirus patients are found. This issue is all the more important for us since our hospital is situated the epicenter of the first outbreak of coronavirus in the United States, Kirkland, WA.
My family, given their concern for my increased risk of death from a coronavirus infection (due to my age and underlying heart disease), forced me to bring up this issue with my colleagues.
So, I sent them the following email:
Dear Colleagues and members of my family:
I am writing this email today because of the concerns raised by some of you (my close family members) which I introduced to you, my colleagues, in an[other] recent email. I had hoped that we could have a face-to-face discussion of this but that became technically impossible due to office scheduling changes necessitated by the restriction of patient office visits in the current medical emergency.
I also have come to realize that families, and not just mine by the way, are critical “stakeholders”, as they say, in this as well. My family’s concern is obviously my safety. They see a practice situated at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. They are aware that older people are being advised by the health authorities of Washington State to remain in their homes because of their increased risk of death from an infection. The guy I golf with has shuttered himself in his house and his daughter is bringing him groceries.
I am scared as well but had been perfectly willing to share the risk of contracting this virus if those risks are minimized for all.
To be honest, this has not set well with my family. They have accused me of being unduly cavalier and have gone so far to accuse me of being overly prideful and inconsiderate of their desires to protect me from a premature death as well as exposing my spouse, who also is in that elderly category of increased risk, to that same outcome.
I cannot ignore those concerns.
On the other hand, all of this raises ethical issues that everyone of us need to keep in mind. For example, is my life more important to my loving family than the life of any one of my colleagues (or the life of any person working in our office and endoscopy center for that matter) to their husbands, wives, children, and parents?
And what about age? Yes, older people are under increased risk of having a more severe illness. But, on the other hand, who suffers more from death? The person who has had a longer life, wherein they have had a greater chance to experience the joys and sorrows of our human journey? Or the person whose life journey, the only truly valuable thing we have, has been cut short?
I look forward to your comments. I will convey them to my family. I think that dealing with this awful situation, in some odd way, will turn out to be beneficial for all of us. It brings all of us together by making us focus on our important personal relationships. It should help us strengthen those relationships, which I believe will make us, as individuals, better in the process.
I know that, having written all this, I feel better already.
With love to you all,
So, the silver lining of this very dark cloud is the opportunity to work on our personal relationships. These roles actually do occupy most of our time if you think about it and therefore clearly deserve our attention. They define how we interact with one another at all levels of social organization. They clearly help determine how fulfilling our lives turn out to be.
This subject, specifically the reason why attention to personal relationships is an important factor in finding happiness, is presented in Chapter 10 of my book, The Pursuit of the Personal Renaissance Experience.