Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

A Question of Conscience

Two years after my husband's death in 1977,  I retired from my position as ophthalmologist at the Yale University Health Center [1979]. I had enjoyed working with the students, faculty, and anybody connected with the university from the university’s president to the cleaning personnel, but' as I was the oldest physician on the staff it was time to leave. I was looking forward to an easy life and at first it was very pleasant indeed. I got up in the morning when I wanted to, went to lectures and exhibitions, had luncheon engagements, visited New York and traveled to places wherever I had friends and relatives. But sooner or later this aimless life did not agree with me. I needed a certain discipline and purpose. So I looked around for voluntary work. At a meeting I had met the director of a geriatric nursing home in New Haven with about 150 to 200 patients. She asked me whether I would consider doing some research for her. She was interested specifically in a statistical analysis of the incidence of eye diseases in the patients and the follow-- up of the pathological conditions. My time was my own and I could come and go whenever I wanted. A room with a large desk was provided for me and nurses and other personnel were very cooperative. I studied the file of each patient from their arrival of to the present and then would scrutinize the history of their eye problems, noting especially whether appointments with their treating physicians were kept.

In the room where I worked there was a cabinet where medications were kept under lock and key.  I began to notice that certain nurses would come into the room and remove medications which they furtively placed in their handbags. I was almost finished with my project. When I discussed the research with the director I said to her: "By the way, I am disturbed by the behavior of certain nurses" and without naming names I told her what I had observed. I do not know what went on between the director and the nurses, but from that moment I was ostracized and nobody spoke to me. Luckily my research was completed. I had found out among other things that the nurses did indeed do a good job to see to it that the patients visited their physicians regularly. Still the question remains, should I have snitched on them?


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