May 1, 2009
The other night I was watching the news, and they had one of those ominous messages about an upcoming story. A swirl of red and black shadows appeared on the screen and a deep voice said, "The next time you go into surgery the doctor operating on you could be high. Operating…under the influence. But first-sports!" I guess they figure no one’s getting an operation at ten o’clock at night anyway, so they can postpone such an important story and focus on the world of professional bocce first. And this isn’t the first time I’ve heard a story about the potential perils of going under the knife. A few years ago I heard about a doctor who left right in the middle of an operation because he wanted to get to the bank to deposit a check. And I’m pretty sure we’re all thinking the same thing: if the guy can’t figure out how to use an ATM, should be really be allowed to cut people with a scalpel? And more recently than that I’ve heard stories of doctors sending messages on Twitter right in the middle of operations, making comments about their patients like, "And I thought this guy smelled bad on the outside!" I know there are a lot of handheld devices that make it really easy to send and receive messages, but-and I could be wrong about this-none of them that I’ve seen can be used with just one hand. If I’m lying on the operating room table I hope the doctor is keeping at least one hand in whatever organ of mine he’s working on. On second thoughts, if a doctor’s sending messages in the middle of an operation, maybe it’s better that he’s using both hands to do it. And I can’t help wondering who caught doctors sending messages in the middle of operations. Honestly, I hope it wasn’t family members or friends of the patient. I know doctors are as human as the rest of us. We’d all like to believe doctors are exactly the way they’re portrayed on television-sexy, super-intelligent, and completely dedicated to their patients for fifty minutes before going to spend their off-duty ten minutes getting hammered in a bar then climbing into each others’ beds as the final credits roll. Well, maybe we don’t want them to be exactly like that, but I can’t remember ever seeing a TV doctor get stoned before going into surgery. The only place I’ve seen that is on the news. Actually I didn’t really see it there either because I turned it off before that story ran, but they did try to tempt me with another ominous message. This one said, "Our in-depth investigation uncovered how they’re getting the drugs." Let’s see. Doctors work in hospitals with fully-stocked pharmacies and they have access to prescription pads and not only do they have years of training but the drug companies are constantly sending them free samples, probably with helpful instructions like, "Put on some Steely Dan and take a couple of these with Wild Turkey." Where could they possibly be getting the drugs they’re using to get high as a kite before going into surgery? That must have taken some really tough investigating.