What the Hospital Can Embody in Times of Tragedy

04/22/2013 10:34 am ET | Updated Apr 22, 2013
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The capture that ended the manhunt took place on a landlocked boat. The symbolism wasn't lost on the talking heads, neither was the 'irony' of Dzhokar Tsarnaev being delivered to the very same hospital attending to the victims of his own alleged monstrosity. Twitter and the blogosphere then went ablaze over Miranda rights, and the debate will surely continue amongst legal experts over the Constitution and the handling of his case. But as this nightmare of a week comes to an end, I was struck by how it was the hospital, not the Blind Lady, that acted as the allegory of justice.

In an utterly inhumane act, humanity did not cower as hundreds ran towards the explosion. It was also noted that not one living victim failed to survive. An extraordinary feat for a city that does not encounter bombings as a daily occurrence. As a medical trainee, the accounts of how each member of the "health team knew their dance moves", and executed them under such unimaginable conditions was inspiring. It seems they were not just ready, but unflappable.

Aside from the technical mastery, it was the statements made by two physicians that really got me. While the tragedy continued to unfold, and the outrage still palpable, Dr. David Schoenfield found himself trying to revive one of the brothers in the ER. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, ended up dying of multiple wounds. When asked about the ethics of using intensive resources to save him that night, he was unflinching: "You give the best care you can to every patient that comes to you, regardless of what may or may not be. Whether it was a suspect, an innocent, a police officer, you have no idea who it is when they arrive. You give them the best care you can."

Dr. Richard Wolfe, the physician head of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Emergency Department, echoed a storied pillar of medicine: "It's really about the relationship you have with the patient. You have to put their interest first during that period. It doesn't matter if it's a perpetrator or the president."

The current discourse on hospitals in North America is that they charge too much, are the most dangerous places in the world, and most damningly, provide unequal treatment. We also place a lion's share of government budgets, and unrealistic hopes on them to cure ills outside their own walls. On this tragic occasion, however, the most remarkable thing about the hospital was its ability to be truly independent of all the chaos outside. It was able to divorce itself from public opinion, all while being made up of people. Human beings that by all odds had loved ones near the bombings, who transformed themselves into providers with the professionalism to not alter a single standard of care. The teams refused to choke on performance or purpose. They opted for a justice that doesn't wax poetic. They practiced medicine in its archetypal form.

In a revolution that was televised, a leakedreport from Egypt documents the horror when medicine is tainted by politics and clashing ideologies. Statements indicate that senior doctors at a military hospital in Cairo went ahead and operated on protesters without an anaesthetic, while refusing to clean out wounds on others. All very disturbing if true.

As Boston exhales and is set for recovery, the deepest of sympathies will be redoubled to all those affected. Boylson Street will be run on again, and citizens have been assured that the suspect "will feel the full weight of justice." It's also important to know, that even in the face of senseless terror, the hospital will not quiver or balk on its ideals.

I hope that can give all of us some comfort in an ever turbulent and unjust world.