There are many distressing things connected with illness. One of the things that distresses me the most is the manner in which people in the healthcare system now address patients. As patients enter doctors’ offices and clinics, receptionists and nurses address patients by their first names.
The patient’s age doesn’t matter. A thirty year-old nurse will say to a ninety year-old man, “Walk this way, John.” A twenty-five year old nurse, about to give a shot to a seventy year-old woman, will tell her, “This hurts me as much it hurts you, Mildred.”
Such forms of address may seem, in their eyes, a friendly way to operate. They may also seem, by not mentioning the patient’s last name, a means to protect privacy. But to me they seem disrespectful.
We live in a society where boundaries have come down. Many people now feel that they can say anything to anyone. Hence we witness constant scenes of uncouth, vicious and dysfunctional behavior on the abomination that is reality TV.
A man who has lived ninety years has lived through many experiences. He has earned our respect. He deserves the dignity of being addressed by his last name, and by the preface of “Mr.”
Boundaries are healthy. If we restored them, and had codes of good conduct, we’d not merely function together in more productive ways. We’d also get along better.