Let us start out by defining these two similar yet altogether different concepts. A privilege is a special entitlement granted to a restricted group or individual and can be revoked. By contrast, a right is irrevocable and inherently held by everyone. Often times because of the time, effort, and cost involved in achieving our “dreams” of becoming a surgeon, we develop a feeling of entitlement. This entitlement may distort the mission at hand resulting in the surgeon feeling that he or she has the right to, for example, treat children with various cleft or craniofacial deformities.
I have often commented in lectures and in the operating room that it is not our “right”, but rather our “privilege” to provide surgical care to children with craniofacial or cleft conditions. Certainly, this phenomenon can apply to any member of our multidisciplinary team, but it seems most pervasive in the surgical disciplines. This privilege is granted in a theoretical sense by the parents and in a practical or legal sense by the boards and hospitals. It is our responsibility as oral and maxillofacial surgeons, ENT surgeons, and plastic surgeons to keep our egos in check and continually reflect on the privilege of surgically managing these children.
To summarize, no surgeon or surgical discipline has a right to operate on any patient or child. Those surgeons that treat these children will find it to be the most rewarding of surgical challenges, and that is the ultimate privilege.
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