Not all arguments are worth having. My daughter had a bad night’s sleep last night, and a late-night tantrum. I was reminded that you can’t have an argument with a preschooler. Here’s how it works if you try:
Adult: It’s the middle of the night. Hop into bed, please.
Child: Go away. You leave me alone!
Adult: C’mon. Hop into bed. It’s all dark outside. It’s really late
Child (running around the room): Leave me alone! Leave me alone! You go! I don’t like you! You get out!
The child always wins because they don’t argue by the same rules. They see no value in proving a point, or rebutting, or even offering different arguments.
This all made me think about medical work. Just because we want to discuss, inform, enable or advise, doesn’t mean we can. Relationships are two-sided. In order to “achieve” an adequate discussion, you need the other person to have the emotional and intellectual ability to participate. Achieving “informed consent” requires that the patient be logical, and able to understand risks and probabilities, and emotionally able to consider their health in a balanced way. For elective surgery, that is achievable. For emergency, or even elective cancer surgery, it is close to a dream.
I would never advocate that we shouldn’t try, or that it is pointless. But midnight tantrums just taught me how much I am kidding myself.