Loss of Dignity

Johanna Shapiro, PhD

We patients are very protective
of our dignity
We may lose our battle against
or even lose a leg
But we want to emerge from our
medical encounters with
dignity intact.

Of course, it simply is not to be.
From the ubiquitous open-back
hospital gown displaying your
gluteus maximus
to all and sundry
to peeing in the bed because
the nurse can’t get there quickly enough
to having your surgeon
round on you while you are
ensconced on the commode
to crying through your entire
physical therapy session
to being discussed in detail as though
you don’t actually exist –

clinging to one’s dignity
goes to hell in a handbasket
pretty quickly

Yet here’s a funny thing
Stripped of dignity
stripped bare
you may discover
a peculiar kind of grace
There is nothing left to hide
nothing left to protect
You are down to essence
And suddenly
dignity seems overrated