First watch this TED Talk:
This talk touched upon one of the most important aspects of Medicine today. It is indeed a cruel irony that a profession so close to humanity is now so devoid of care for the very subject of its existence. While the issue with the iPatient may not be the main problem for a developing nation like India, we have our own bits and pieces of issues tagging into this.
While more and more technological innovations come in, the further becomes our distance from the patients. The healing touch is not just a mystic concept, it is a very important part of being a doctor. It is one of the things that keeps us connected with our patients. That reminds us how we are not just in charge of a syndrome or a diseased body/mind, but a human being as a whole. It reminds us that they have issues we often do not even contemplate in the maze of evidence based management we offer them for their presenting illnesses. How often do we discuss sexuality with patients suffering from advanced Multiple Sclerosis? How often do we bother about the socio-economic issues that has to go with treating a poor patient who earns his daily bread as a minimum wage laborer? How often do we try to improvise our medical advice learnt from books published in the United States of America to suit the needs of the family from India? How often do we address the fears and worries of the ICU patient, on a ventilator, but barely conscious, who sees another patient being given futile CPR right across the hall? How often do we try to understand why the teenage girl who presented to the ER with a drug overdose tried to “off herself” in the first place?
How often do we care about the patient as a human being? How often do we give a damn?
Medical education is designed to be objective. Obviously. It has to be, it is a curricular demand. It makes us view the entire human body in such mechanical terms that by the time we are well versed in the matter of the body, we end up being oblivious of the matter of the heart. I know this sounds a ridiculous proposition to my more evidence-minded colleagues, but the truth remains, despite everything medicine is (or claims to be) achieving now, we are slowly growing further apart from the patient.
I realize that AV’s talk has just caused an outpouring of emotions in me which I feel very strongly about. Clinical medicine is a dying art. When he talked of Auenbrugger discovering percussion, of Laennec using the Stethoscope and of course, of Conan Doyle’s teacher’s Holmesian powers of observations, it excites me. It reminds me of my teacher telling us about how to diagnose stuff just from handshakes. It reminds me of one my mentors, our very own Greg House, MD, diagnosing a patient with a recent cerebellar stroke just by watching the subtle changes in his gait.
Thank you Dr. Verghese, for reminding me that being a doctor is not always about treating the disease or diagnosing the syndromes, but also just about being there for someone who needs the care and attention of someone who understands, someone who empathizes…