This is anesthesiology’s lane too

We’re very fortunate in anesthesiology. We’re seldom the physicians who have to face families with the terrible news that a patient has died from a gunshot wound.

But all too often we’re right there in the operating room for the frantic attempts to repair the bullet hole in the heart before it stops beating, or the blast wound to the shattered liver before the patient bleeds to death.

Despite all the skills of everyone in the operating room – surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians – and all the blood in the blood bank, we’re not always successful. A death on the OR table is a traumatic event and a defeat; we remember it decades later.

So yes, this is our lane too. Memories haunt me of the times when mine was the last voice a gunshot victim heard on this earth, telling him he was about to go to sleep as he went under anesthesia for the last-ditch, futile attempt to save him.

I use the pronoun “he” intentionally, as every one of those cases in my professional life has been a young man. My experience is representative; most gunshot victims aren’t the random targets of mass shootings. They are overwhelmingly male (89 percent), under the age of 30 (61 percent), and over half are from the lowest income quartile.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is way off base in telling physicians to mind their own business as it did in its infamous November 7 tweet. Human life is our business. Pediatricians have every right to remind parents that gun security, and keeping guns out of the hands of children, are vital to their well-being right up there with getting them vaccinated.

At my house, we’ve always kept our guns padlocked in a safe that our children couldn’t have broken into with a crowbar. We’re not NRA members, but we enjoy going to a shooting range on occasion. I learned gun safety during my officer training in the Army Reserve Medical Corps. My husband and I are firmly in the category of gun-owners who take both the right and the responsibility with the utmost seriousness.

Physician opinions on gun control and gun ownership vary just as much as the opinions of the rest of the population. What doesn’t vary is our collective sense of responsibility for public health and our support for better, more readily available, mental health care.

The solutions to America’s horrific rate of gun-related deaths aren’t easy or obvious. But the NRA isn’t helping matters with its thoughtless and incendiary social media message.

8 COMMENTS

Barbara Perona

I would hope physician leaders like yourself would make every effort to present a nuanced view. A good way to start is to avoid name calling. Accusing an entire group (the NRA) of “thoughtless and incendiary” are fighting polarizing words.
We Americans need less fight and more compromise.

[Reply]

Valerie Zee

Barbara Perona,

Dr. Sulivan-Sibert’s language was nothing more than calling a spade a spade. The NRA posted their comment AS A GROUP when they posted it under their professional, group Twitter. THEY fired the first shot. WE are tired of being pushed around, and they went so far as to tell US, the ones who treat gunshot victims, that we (as a group) don’t know what we are talking about. Their comment WAS most definitely thoughtless and incendiary. Those aren’t fighting words; they are honest truth.

[Reply]

Charese Pelham

I agree with Dr. Perona.

[Reply]

Trauma crna aka "anesthesia!"

This is way better written. And way less ego driven than “it’s my fucking highway.” But then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less than that kind of delusion of grandeur response from a surgeon. They pretty much assume the world revolves around their opinions and that everyone else thinks they are as important as they think they are. Thanks for putting it in a non anti-gun nut esaay.

[Reply]

Rita

Dr. Sibert is not a surgeon, she is a fantastic anesthesiologist, caring gun owner and thoughtful human being

[Reply]

Jennifer de Vries

Well written and thanks for posting. I’m also in the responsible gun owning category and agree that gun violence is indeed a PUBLIC HEALTH issue. Not just a second amendment issue.

[Reply]

Bing Shi

Illegal drug is the number one cause of crimes, including GSW, stab wound, and death in young Americans. Let’s work together as a nation fight against illegal drugs, the real killer.

[Reply]

KL

When my brother, a paramedic at the time, dropped off a patient and started talking with the nurse behind the desk, he was in his lane. He was doing is job. He was socializing with the other medical staff. And he was shot 5 times by a 72 year old woman who beat the system because she blamed meds and her age on being “delusional”. Her husband dropped off the gun hoping that she would have killed herself in the hospital. While he lived and has the scars to show, he is no longer a paramedic due to severe PTSD. He no longer does what he loved to do. The hospital is one of the most dangerous places anyone can work at. They cannot refuse care, many deal with gang members visiting their friend or out for revenge, doors are always open 24/7, 365 days a year. There are no metal detectors when the environment is full of metal. Some of the hospitals do have an armed security guard. Some do have active duty officers transporting people who are injured and need care. It doesn’t matter. The hospital and doctors’ office are some of the most easily accessed, high risk environments for people to provide care to the sick and dying. The NRA’s response of “stay in your lane” to healthcare professionals is one of callousness and complete lack of education on how life works for some day in and day out. Until it’s one of their loved ones who gets shot in the hospital, will they possibly give a shit.

[Reply]

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