I think one of the greatest things we can do as doctors is admitting that we don’t have all the answers because we don’t. And if we think we do, we don’t. We never will. Years of training and experience, even though it may feel like it, won’t endow us with swathes of knowledge. There’s truth in the idea that the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.
We won’t solve the Rubik’s cube of complicated cases, we won’t disentangle the riddle of the Sphinx-like Oedipus did, and discussing prognosis and treatment plans with emotional clients is much more complicated and emotionally taxing than anything else. We have to admit that we don’t have all the answers. We also have to concede that we will make mistakes and that we simply cannot save all the animals. We just won’t.
This isn’t a question to posit, postulate, or propound. We, as doctors, simply do not have all the answers. If we did, we wouldn’t have any questions, our clients wouldn’t have any concerns, and our patients wouldn’t get sick. But they do. And sometimes they get better because we have some answers. But often they do not. They represent through the Emergency Service and then pass away, leaving us asking more questions than we had started with. We wonder what we could have done differently. We don’t think we could have done anything differently. We did everything by the book. Our colleagues agree with us. Our clients are confused. It’s scary. But it’s ok because we tried our best.
When our time comes and we must answer to the Sphinx, who asks, “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three at night?” we may not have the answer. But it is in admitting our paucity of knowledge that we acknowledge our human condition. We are all human, and that’s exactly the point. We don’t know everything, and that’s fine. Because, if we knew everything, we’d be aliens exploring the galaxy, solving the mysteries of life and consciousness. We wouldn’t be discussing the bacterial components of dogs’ urinary tract infections.
We are doctors, but we are also humans that crawl, walk, and eventually need a walking stick regardless of how much we know. We can’t forget that.