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By Dr. Lucas Restrepo
. 6 Comment(s)

The hand is the measure of man. The specifications are: twice the radius of a fruit, the full diameter of a tree’s branch. Evolution’s subtle demiurge plays dice well.

If “the eyes are the windows of the soul,” then it may not be invalid to say that the hands are windows to a life.

The hands of my father didn’t betray that he was an engineer. His fondness for carpentry carved in his hands a catalog of injuries. He was proud of them; each scratch conveyed a jovial anecdote and ethical commentary. Covered in sawdust, he’d tell me: “Work is your patrimony; work defines what kind of man you are; respect is earned with work, not with the geography of your cradle or inferences from your appearance.”

The homunculus of the motor cortex concurs with its disproportionate thumb. Handedness and language, co-segregated in solidarity, define the biped that pretends to be the “measure of all things.”

Every time I see an immigrant in the hospital, I show his or her hands to my students and residents, and say: “These are the hands of a worker.”

I read the unequivocal language of hard work in their tough surface and tectonic grooves, an earthly chronicle of scars and amputations.

I also read in them the fields that grow our food, the avenues that lead to our homes, the churches where priests speak of transcendental things.

I don’t ask whether people reduced by illness are legal or illegal―it’s none of my business. Men and women transcend documents. People are more complex than a birth certificate, a passport or a driver’s license.

Medicine is based on observation: first see, deduce after. The contrary process lacks merit. Prejudice is the professional epitaph of physicians. Perhaps, this is why Chesterton wrote that “the chief object of education is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

Some say that my patient isn’t entitled to healthcare for lacking a document.

I disagree.

Some are writing laws to coerce physicians into betraying patients.

I will never cooperate.

My opinion is not based on emotion: it is rooted in my knowledge of biology and medicine. It is based on an ancient codex of professional honor.

We depend on those who plant trees in times of uncertainty ― what kind of man cuts down the tree that gives him shade?


Share Your Comments


  1. Zaneb Beams

    Dr. Resrepo, Your words say everything that needs to be said, and beautifully. Health providers should not ever let politics invade their integrity. I agree with you 100%: Human beings deserve compassion, care, and respect, whether or not they have required stamped and signed papers legitimating them.
  2. Al McKegg

    Indeed, beautifully said. Your use of a patient's hands to educate your students reminds me of a pediatrician's comment to his intern on my daughter's legs: "These are the shins and knees of a very active child (she later became a champion gymnast), not signs of child abuse."
  3. ina

    beautiful; thank you much for sharing
  4. Lisa Plymate

    This is so beautiful. I am speechless. You write poetry. This is a reminder of what an honor it is to walk into a patient's exam room, what a privilege it is to be allowed in someone's life the way we are as physicians. Thank you so much for expressing those feelings so well.
  5. Ana Cristina Restrepo

    Que palabras tan hermosas y bien puestas, hermano. La medicina es un oficio para humanistas y el humanista por definición es alguien en profunda conexión con la Humanidad, como lo eres tú. Te quiero mucho
  6. Andrés Posada

    Impresionante arículo.
    Palabras precisas y bellas que salen de un médico sensible a los principios de la medicina verdadera en vías de extinción.
    El demiurgo construye en su cabeza toda una estructura, antes de, posiblemente, plasmarla en realidad.
    La idea invisible, se hace objeto y contenido.
    Saca del caos un sentido organizado de vida, y le da continuidad.

    Las manos cuentan historias, las cicatrices también.
    El homúnculo refleja los lugares más sensibles del hombre, sin lugar a dudas.

    Es buena y fácil medida la de un buen hombre: Cultivar y acariciar su jardín: constituído por sus hijos, sus plantas y sus animales.

    ¡Hermoso dibujo, hermoso título, hermoso artículo!

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