Case studies: In the end, do we have the power to remain neutral?

Listening to portions of Sonia Sotomayor’s hearings this morning made me think about the effort to remain objective.  As dietitians, do we impose our personal experiences upon our patients, or are we able to judge on a case by case basis?  Sotomayor argues that she is a careful jurist.  She argues that she is faithful to the law and that her record shows it, too.   Although she defends that her opinion wouldn’t take precedence over the law, does her record reveal the same impartiality?  Is she as open-minded as she claims?  Does she listen to the arguments of all parties?


I cannot speak for Sotomayor, but I can for myself.  I hope I won’t incorporate my personal experiences into making important decisions for others.  Sure there is wisdom that comes from personal experience, but to what extent does a judge, a doctor, or a dietitian put her views aside and examine the facts?  Maybe her morbidly obese patient has an underlying under-active thyroid disorder, which makes weight loss more difficult.  Maybe that particular case isn’t about changing sedentary and dietary behaviors, like others in that genre .

Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings are making me think about how difficult it may be to consistently remain objective.  One would hope that a judge (of the highest court in the land!!!) could do this per case, have a reasonable mind.  One would hope that a dietitian, too, won’t strike the gavel prematurely.  Following clinical guidelines goes without saying for dietitians.  But following a course of action thereafter?  When is it best to put your gut feeling aside?

Sotomayor states that we must be aware of the prejudices that we DO have.  And when we acknowledge that we HAVE them, it is only then that we can put them aside.  It’s only then that we can recognize the facts within the situation, and thus make our recommendations.


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