Use and Abuse of the Lab Coat / Fernando Damaso
Posted on March 30, 2014
During my childhood, adolescence, youth and young adulthood, doctors
wore their lab coats only when they were working in hospitals, clinics
and other health care facilities, and only for hygienic reasons. They
were intended to help prevent the spread of germs between doctor and
patient. On the street and in public places they dressed like anyone
else of their social class. This seemed to be the case in the rest of
the world as well, judging from films and television programs which
portrayed medical personnel.
In my country, however, lab coats seem to have become a kind of second
skin, an official uniform for doctors, who never take them off. They
wear them when walking from place to place and on buses, in commercial
establishments and in the management offices of state enterprises and
institutions. They were the damn things in preparation for travel to
countries where they provide cheap labor, in assembly rooms where they
receive their political and professional “orientation,” and even as they
get on and off the planes taking them to their final destinations.
Undoubtedly, this use and abuse of the lab coat is not a coincidence but
rather a response to political objectives. It serves as a propaganda
tool, intended for both domestic and international audiences, which is
used to promote one of the most important “achievements” of the regime.
The lab coat, which is worn at all hours of the day, seems to define the
personality of our doctors. In Cuban TV news reports they are always
seen wearing them, even when travelling on foot through fields and
mountains, or on boats on rivers and lakes. They wear them in groups,
“moving towards the bright future” together, as in old Soviet-bloc
propaganda posters illustrating “the path towards communism.”
It would be desirable if lab coats were once again used for the purposes
they were originally intended, which was for the well-being of doctors
and their patients. Moreover, they would undoubtedly last much longer.
30 March 2014
Source: Use and Abuse of the Lab Coat / Fernando Damaso | Translating