How Much Do You Want To Know?

BY LAURA TAN

The following piece received an honourable mention in the Writing (Clinical) section of The Auricle’s 2021 Writing and Visual Art Competition and is responding to the prompt “The pursuit of knowledge is a quintessential part of medicine, but the benefits and risks sometimes balance treacherously.

Tell me more from less; that’s the key
But first give me the numbers to their identity
What is a good referral, but that which is
short, sweet,
and doesn’t put the ear on the other end to sleep


With eyes never wide enough to absorb the whirl of a hospital,
wee students internally chant, ‘drink, drink from the fire hydrant’
only, this inherited mantra has lost the part
that mentioned we could use a cup
Who knew that quenching our thirst for knowledge
simply boiled down to distilling details


One way or another, we each develop our own filter
Ever since our first mischievous fictitious fabrication we’ve been
well acquainted with omissions
Gradually we learn that patient details are redacted
because trust is a veil under which vulnerabilities are kept secret
Confidentiality is the key that allows us to do our jobs while discreetly
carving out a distinct part of our lives from those we share it with
Some stories just can’t be told without context;
context that’s often either too medical or too personal. So
we compartmentalise, we internalise


We immerse ourselves in the stories of others:
bookmarking their medical progress, shaping their future
Hopefully, one man’s misfortune and discomfort,
through respectful inquiry, can be averted
in another


In the spirit of full disclosure, we are not entirely transparent either:
from his unavailing “almost got it, sir”
to her ‘I’m sorry we stuffed up’ underlying “…circumstances, unforeseen”
we work amidst the blaring coloured codes attempting to paint over our attempts
to plug the leak on a barely buoyant ship


Someone may have once said
understanding is knowing what to do with knowledge,
wisdom is knowing when to use it
Likewise these white lies may have their place
when intended for another’s benefit.
White lies we don’t condone, often compromise someone else’s wellbeing
Those that we do, stem from good will so
by all means, lie.
But never for yourself,
or worse still,
to yourself
Say what you see, kindly

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