‘I Don't Want It'


It was 4:15 p.m. when my nurse gave me a “heads up” about the next patient. With a weary expression, she showed me a note affixed to the chart. “Mother is in waiting room and wants the patient to be tested for STDs,” it read. I scanned the chart before I entered the room. I had never seen this girl as a patient and did not know her. She was seventeen and had a thirteen-month-old daughter. The chart also told me that she’d had a sexually transmitted disease in the past, was currently experiencing pelvic pain, had no medical care in the past six months, and had gone about three months without a period. I tried to focus. More than a little frustrated that this patient was scheduled so late in the day, I began speculating about a diagnosis before I even entered the room.

Her slight frame was hunched over as she sat on the exam table. She wore sweats and sneakers, and a subtle curve of abdomen peaked out between her shirt and pants. The distress in her eyes as she searched mine was a contradiction to her otherwise childlike face. Her vulnerability hit me like a wave. My pace slowed, and reflexively my voice became softer. I felt guilt at my earlier desire to dispense quickly with this encounter so that I could arrive on time for an evening class I was team-teaching. She was poor. She was frightened. She was barely out of childhood.

A physical exam, a urine pregnancy test, and genital cultures...

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About the Author

Anonymous is a doctor in private practice. Various details in this article have been changed to ensure patient confidentiality.