Healing hand

hand

 

In the UK, dentists cannot refuse to treat patients who admit to having serious illnesses such as AIDS (HIV). Dentists are supposed to have taken precautions to protect their patients, their nursing staff, and themselves against the risks of spreading disease by cross-infection. However, human nature being as it is, some dentists fear catching diseaes from their patients despite adhering to the appropriate requisites to prevent cross-infection. Irrationally, they try to ‘palm off ‘ patients whose medical conditions they fear by referring them to dental hospitals and specialist clinics. This is unfair to the patients who are forced to wait for long periods to be seen at these referral places for ‘specialist’ treatment that they do not actually need. I was not one of these over cautious fear-filled dentists. I treated everyone whatever their medical status.

I have treated many patients who have been infected with AIDS and other worrying illnesses such as Hepatitis B and C. I followed cross-infection guidelines and treated them no differently than I did for other patients. 

Many, but by no means all, of my patients were grateful for whatever I had done to deal with thier dental problems. Some of them, but not all of them, used to shake my hand and the end of an appointment or of a course of treatment. I appreciated that. What I noticed over the years was that the patients most likely to shake my hand were those who had been diagnosed with AIDS. I had the feeling that they were really grateful that I was prepared to touch their mouths without making a fuss about, or showing any fear of about their undoubtedly serious medical condition. The AIDS patients seemed to appreciate that I did not treat them as pariahs.

The writing on the wall

India is a country with many religions. This sign advertises a store that gets in new stock for Ramzan ( Muslim ), Christmas ( Christian ), Diwali ( Hindu ) and New Year ( which one is not specified ).

Sadly, inter-religious tolerance is being challenged in today’s India.

The pencil and the peas

PENCIL 2

I spent three years working on the experimental aspects of my PhD topic at University College London (‘UCL’) in a laboratory in the Physiology Department. Throughout that time there were always one or two other PhD students working in the same room. ‘Wink’, our supervisor’s wife, was a chemist. She often worked alongside us. Generally, the atmosphere in the laboratory was very congenial.

We were joined by a new PhD student sometime during my second year in the lab. Fortunately, I cannot recall her name, but let’s call her ‘June’.

One morning, June asked me whether she could borrow a pencil from me. As pencils were few and far between in our lab, I said to her: “Make sure you give it back, please.” To which she answered in an unfriendly tone: “Don’t be so Jewish.”

Now, it so happens that I am born Jewish. Although I am the least observant (in religious terms) Jewish person you are ever likely to meet, I am not happy when the word ‘Jewish’ or ‘Jew’ is used pejoratively. Wink must have seen my face flush, because she said to June: “That was unnecessary.”

Although it was almost innocuous, the pencil incident made me wary of June.

Some month’s later, Wink and her husband invited all their PhD students to be their guests at the annual Physiological Society Dinner, which was being held at UCL. I was seated beside Wink and opposite June. When the main course arrived, there were green peas on our plates. I do not like these small round spheres at all.

June noticed me pushing them aside on my plate, and said: “Is your religion also against peas? I must remember that when I invite you around to my place for dinner.” Feeling my face warming, I said to June: “Even if you were to beg me to come to eat at your place, I would have no hesitation in refusing.” Hearing that, June’s face turned bright red. She stood up and without saying anything, left the dining hall. Wink turned to me, and whispered: “Well said, Adam.”

June abandoned her PhD and our lab not long after this dinner.

PENCIL 1

Now, many years later, I am still sensitive about anti-Semitic remarks, but also deeply curious as to why European people make them, often when they have had little or no contact with Jewish people. In India, which I visit often, although there have never been many Jewish people there, there is barely, if any, prejudice against them. Often Indian people extol the virtues of Jewish people.