A Doctor’s Responsibility

by Danielle Ofri
New York Times Op-Ed

As a physician, do I or don’t I?

I‘m walking home from the subway with my 12-year-old daughter when we pass a man sitting on the sidewalk, head hanging down over his knees. Living in New York City, we see a lot of people, sadly, like this. Their numbers are increasing, as the surge of opiate addiction meets the surge in housing prices.

Everyone has to make a personal decision about if, when or how one should do something, or just walk on. If you’re a parent, there’s the additional challenge of navigating these heartbreaking dilemmas with your child. For doctors, it’s a little different. The American Medical Association code of ethics says that doctors have “an ethical obligation to provide care in cases of medical emergency.”

The problem is that emergencies are not always obvious: Is that gentleman on the bench overdosing or just dozing? And in the past, I’d always assumed that even if I did come across someone with an emergency medical problem, my intervention would likely be a moot point, because I wouldn’t have any medical tools with me, other than a phone for calling 911, like any other passer-by.

But this time is different. This time I have a naloxone kit in my bag. (continue reading NY Times Op-Ed)