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Protecting singles is sometimes a matter of life and death


In a thought provoking article published in the Washington Post, Joan DelFattore raises a troubling issue of doctors who treat singles differently. When meeting with a physician about treatment for her cancer diagnosis back in 2011, one of the questions her oncologist asked was whether or not she had a spouse or children. When she replied no, the doctor wondered how she would manage her treatment. As a result, he prescribed what she called a mild drug. DelFattore said she knew that there was a more effective treatment available for her cancer, a combination therapy that included chemo, but came with some side effects. The doctor did not change his opinion due to her "lack of support" at home.

She went on and researched this topic. She found a systematic approach where singles are treated differently than married people. See her TEDX talk here:

To me, it's not only about different treatment singles get when doctors understand their patients have no spouse. It is also not only about the false assumption that singles do not have a support system of their own to help them overcome such treatments. In fact, I show in my book that singles oftentimes have a stronger support systems than married people, exactly because they nurture them and affiliate themselves with a wider circles of friends and relatives over the years. But it is also about our legal system and the legal protection we offer for singles in such cases.

We have so much protection for different disadvantaged groups in society and rightly so! We protect the right to adopt or discard any sexual identity and we have certain protocols for social workers, teachers, and doctors to follow to cater for these populations. Great! But why don't we have protocols and legal protection for singles? As DelFattore say in an NPR interview: "You know what's especially chilling about that? It was not malicious, which, in a way, almost makes it worse. It was not prejudice in the sense that he was trying to harm me. He could not distinguish between legitimate medical judgment and his personal social views."

We should not blame that doctor. It is a governmental responsibility, it is a collective action that should be taken. Who will be the first congressman or congresswoman that will take the lead and enact a law to protect singles? It is really a matter of life and death.

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