In Come Dance With Me, by Russell Hoban (again), one of the characters, a doctor, makes an interesting observation about the doctor-patient relationship, imparted to him by his predecessor at the hospital:
‘It’s a matter of the vertical vis-a-vis the horizontal’ […]
‘The doctor is vertical; the patient is horizontal, even when they’re walking
around. The doctor wears a suit, the patient is in pyjamas, even when they’re
This quotation illustrates how a lot of ‘patients’ feel, I think. When I go to the doctors, or for a test or a scan or whatever, I often feel (metaphorically) horizontal even though I’m not. I feel like I’m the one in the wrong and that the doctor is in the right. I feel powerless and vulnerable and at the mercy of the medical professional who’s performing the test. A horizontal person in pyjamas (or worse, a hospital gown) is not supposed to ask questions. They’re supposed to submit to what happens to them, and they can’t run away because they don’t have their clothes. I don’t like it.
I don’t like the indignity of having to take my clothes off in front of strangers so that they can examine me. I don’t want to submit to the intrusions. As soon as I’m no longer in my own clothes and in one of those hospital gowns I’m no longer myself – I am a Patient who is there to have things done to her. Not only have I lost the protection of my clothing but my identity has been taken away.
At the dentist’s the fear really kicks when I get to a certain angle in the chair. I don’t like tipping my head back to have my hair washed in the sink at the hairdresser’s because I worry that I won’t be able to get up again. Until a couple of years ago I always had nightmares when I slept on my back. It’s too vulnerable a position.
Sometimes I feel more vertical than others, depending on what’s happening to me/who I’m talking to. I suppose the more intrusive the procedure the more metaphorically horizontal I feel.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I just want to put across my point of view. I’m not sure about the layout of the quotation. Weird.