Khaleej Times Editorial : Men of medicine - 29 April 2011

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Medicine is not about machines. It is about people. It is about gentleness and courtesy and a bedside manner that comforts rather than cowers.

 What can possibly be more awesome than a doctor providing that span across the fear which courses through relatives when a loved one is seriously ill. If you look up to anyone you look up to a man of medicine.
There is no feeling as helpless as that of waiting in a hospital emergency for news from within, men and women of stature and accomplishment reduced to a cringing dignity by the suspense of the situation and the inability to do anything tangible to tackle it.
The doctor in such circumstances becomes a superman and those of the medical tribe that understand this and are sensitive enough never to get so jaded as not to care are the salt of the earth.
Then they are those who see it as just another job and are bored and officious and graceless and see the anxiety of nervous and tense relatives as something of an irritation, away with you, get these out of my sight, I have loftier goals for my day than mingling with the great unwashed.
If you are unfortunate enough to come into contact with one of these rude examples you feel so much pity that someone so blessed as to practice medicine on this earth and be in a position to give solace to the human race should be so lacking in soul that he or she is incapable of displaying empathy or compassion. Without compassion a doctor is merely a machine.
And medicine is not about machines. It is about people.
It is about caring and much of healing can be achieved just through attitude. One doctor, tired after a whole day’s effort, still carrying on, bringing into a room of gloom a slash of hope, a little sunshine merely by his manner and the fact that he packaged his medical expertise with rapport rather than arrogance.
Of course you can be arrogant and ignore the pitiful friends and relatives waiting for information, you can shoo them away and snub them and they’ll come back for more, you can be autocratic and downright rude because you have the power, you are the doctor and they will still come back and stand in your shadow.
For there, inside the room, on the bed, fragile and in pain, is someone they love and their only hope is the doctor and the nurse and if they see this inspiring privilege as a burden rather than a benediction perhaps they are in the wrong job.
Like this other doctor who gave time, who explained to the throng what was wrong and what was done.
He did not treat them like they were in the way nor did he keep the patient’s condition secret and act as if he was unapproachable, which is something that some doctors assume, you know this cloak made of ‘stay away from me I am a medicine man’ material.
One is told they get so used to the sad side of the human experience, that the emotions freeze, that they are so busy they do not have the time, they are overworked and harassed and short of sleep and they cannot be standing by answering hundreds of questions and that is why they get misunderstood. It is a good argument but medicine isn’t about machines. It is about people.
And caring about them. Like a touch and a tender word, the right note of confidence, the ability to avoid speaking of the patient in the third person as if the patient was not there. This doctor, he was splendid. He cheered up this patient even as the relatives watched, he chatted with them and patiently answered their questions, told them firmly but kindly what to expect and what was wrong. He didn’t walk away because he could afford to. That sort of doctor makes medicine work. Because that is what it is all about. Not the money, not the power but definitely the glory... The glory of healing. And caring.

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