Sex And The Surgeon

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

My mother, who was an operating room nurse, inspired me to follow her into the nursing profession. She told many stories of surgeons misbehaving in and out of the operating room, and in the 1970s they got away with it. She saw surgeons grab nurses behinds and refer to them as “easy.” A quickie in the medication room in between cases or on the operating room table before the next patient often occurred. The reason given for this behavior was the need to satisfy the huge libido of the surgeon—that was the excuse—but it was imbalance of power and in some cases, fear of the nurse losing her job. One operating room nurse reported a well-known surgeon for sexual harassment. As he cut his patient open and moved his knife in deeper he kept referring to it as “like making love—the separation of the flesh, the penetration of the knife.” He kept on, and the nurse said she was offended and asked him to stop. He continued, and she reported him. She was fired.

In my novel, Dr. Callahan, Katie’s father, when operating on a patient, describes the process in a similar way to the surrounding doctors, Katie and audience. Gillian, his assistant and good friend of Katie’s, looks at her as if to say, “Is he kidding?” But it goes no further. Katie knows he’s not—she’s used to hearing that and much more. He refers to women as “girls,” beats his wife with a wooden stick and has picked Katie’s husband, his fellow Claude, for her with little room to say, “No.”

Recently there has been a focus on sexual harassment—verbal and physical—and rape. Let’s hope this is a new phase and that laws are changed so that the process for the victim is not only made easier but fair. We need to break the silence and speak out for change.

Take good care of yourselves,