Doctors in the U.S. Can’t Be Silent in the Face of What’s Happening in Gaza
On October 31, Dr. Hammam Alloh was the last nephrologist at Al-Shifa Hospital and the last nephrologist in Gaza. When asked by a journalist why he wouldn’t evacuate south with his wife and two children despite heavy bombing and the encroaching Israeli army, he didn’t hesitate. “And if I go, who treats our patients? We are not animals. We have the right to receive proper health care. You think I went to medical school and my postgraduate degrees for a total of 14 years so I think only about my life and not my patients? … Do you think this is the reason I went to medical school, to only think about my life?”
Two weeks later, Dr. Alloh was killed alongside several members of his extended family in an Israeli airstrike.
Gaza is currently in darkness. Israel cut off the electricity weeks ago, along with the water supply. Though targeting hospitals is a war crime, the Israeli military infiltrated part of Al-Shifa Hospital after claiming it was the site of a Hamas headquarters. Colleagues of the hospital’s healthcare workers largely lost contact with those inside. A few text messages from doctors made it through: “As snipers surrounded the hospital compound, Israel and the United States continued to justify Israel’s breach of international law. We are alone now. No one hears us.” As soldiers surrounded the hospital compound, Israel and the United States continued to justify Israel’s breach of international law.
As healthcare workers in the U.S., as I am, many of us serve patients who are refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence from around the world. We see the cost of oppression and state-sanctioned violence everyday in our hospitals and clinics. We bear witness to the stories of our patients and to the toll such experiences have on their physical and mental health. We listen to them and we tell them that no one should ever have to experience what they experienced. We promise them that we care about them, that they are safe now. We do what we can to help them heal.
One of the biggest causes of burnout among our healthcare profession is the moral injury we providers experience when we cannot address the root causes of people’s suffering. Too often, we see patients for whom we can only offer too little care, and too late. We talk to our patients about structural racism and intergenerational trauma, but this feels like putting a bandaid over an ocean of hurt. We come up with innovative ways to address PTSD, but what we really want is for no one to have to go through trauma in the first place.