Hospitals in China have no privacy. It’s really terrible and really amazing. In China, as the sun spills through the waiting room window and splashes over your sitting lap you can watch nurses inject IV’s, give injections check blood pressure, and clean up blood spills. Inside the doctor’s office, it’s much worse. Patients stand ideally on the other side of the open door and sometimes line the walls inside the office too. Their eyes and ears open wide as the doctor speaks to each patient, giving them advice on, their colds, their fevers, their surgeries, their cancers, their abortions, and everything else.
This lack of privacy is clearly a cultural issue. In America, a much richer country, and in Cambodia, a much poorer country, patients get a higher level of privacy. I’m not sure why this culture exists, but I think it’s in part because people enjoy ease dropping on the sorrows of others. The other day, while waiting for Echos yearly checkup, I overheard a tragic conversation.
A woman stood as still as stone as the doctor told her “Your baby is dead, its heartbeat stopped half a month ago. You need to have an abortion to remove the fetus.”
The pregnant woman shook with dread, “I have to go back to work tonight, I don’t know what to do.”
“You should stay in the hospital and prepare for the surgery,” the doctor said.
More patients crowded the room, afraid of being forgotten. An old woman snaked her way through the line of patients, her pregnant daughter following. “Your baby is dead, just get rid of it, what’s the point in keeping it” the old woman said as she handed the doctors scan “Doctor, my daughter didn’t understand what you told her, what was she supposed to do?”
The doctor’s eyes roamed over the scans and then back to the old woman, “The same thing as this woman, your daughter’s fetus isn’t growing, she will need an abortion too.”
An eerie silence fell as the old woman wordlessly lead her daughter back through the crowd as everyone else listened and watched, slight smiles crossing their faces at this unusual bit of drama.