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Friday, January 27, 2012

On Life and Death and Misery

What a cheery title for a blog post, huh? We recently had something happen to our little town of 7,000 people that rocked it to its roots. Two well-respected men in their late forties, one an MD, the other a businessman, were charged with soliciting a young girl for sex. The allegations stated the girl was somewhere between 12 and 13 when the men started soliciting her. She just turned 15. Police had in excess of a thousand electronic communications as evidence against the two.

Needless to say, emotions are running high here. People are either firm in their belief that the accused had to be innocent or vocal in their denunciation of the supposed crimes. The two bailed out of jail about a week ago, bail having been reduced from $1M each to $750,000. Tuesday of this week, the doctor killed himself by lethal injection. Reading through the ingredients he used, it sounded a lot like what veterinarians use to euthanize animals.

The MD's attorney is up in arms. Says his client was innocent and that local assumptions of his guilt drove him to take his own life. I'm not so sure about that. The DA in Santa Barbara (where the victim lives) said some of the electronic communications alluded to a suicide pact between the doctor and the teenager. In today's paper, there was an outraged editorial from someone convinced of the doctor's innocence and a letter to the editor by someone equally convinced of his guilt.

I'm not here to be either Judge or jury. I do, however, understand human nature. The doctor had everything to lose. And he was losing his life in pieces. His hospital contract had been severed. He resigned from the local school board. If convicted, he would have lost his license to practice medicine. The DA alluded to even more charges forthcoming. I don't think the MD could deal with the shame of going from respected community member to suspected pedophile.

Because I spent years in a family practice residency training program as teaching faculty, I have a good understanding of MDs. They work amazingly hard to make it to the pinnacle of success in this country. And they create a closed society once they get there. They see themselves as special. And they are in lots of ways. But they're human, too.

I feel a great deal of compassion for the family the doctor left behind. I saw his wife Monday of this week. She looked terrible, even before her husband took his life the following day. I can only imagine what she's going through. And the two sons he left behind. I wish the doctor had been stronger. That he could have ridden out the vagaries of our justice system. Even if he'd spent a few years behind bars, at least his children would have had a father and his wife a husband.

As a therapist for so long it feels like forever, I've seen the fallout suicide wreaks in families. It's not pretty. I haven't even touched on the victim, but I'm worried about her, too. The doctor may have exited stage left to save his family the humiliation of what else might have surfaced by way of evidence. And to save them the financial burden of his legal  defense. But the wreckage he left behind will do incalculable damage to those who loved him. It's actually hard to say which is worse: the humiliation he would have suffered living, or his suicide.

I like to think, had he been just a bit stronger, he could have seen this thing through to whatever the natural conclusion might have been. As things stand, I'm just so sad--and angry, too. Waste always makes me angry. The doctor threw his life away because, among other things, he couldn't stand the suspicion or pity he thought he saw in people's eyes.

We're all simply human. We have our strengths and our weaknesses. My condolences to all whose lives are touched by this tragedy.

Comments anyone?

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