"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Monday, 9 May 2011

empathy in medicine

In my last post I wrote of the recognition in some quarters that empathy in the doctor can aid the healing process within his patient. This should hardly come as a surprise. The overriding problem in healthcare today seems to be that too often our doctors are ‘Techno-doctors’and ‘Super Specialists’ in a system that reduces patients to paper statistics and doctors to slaves of machinery, forgetting the importance of the personal, the subjective and the social aspects of care. ‘By their very nature doctors deal with bits and pieces – microbes, hormone deficiencies or tumours – while patients experience illness as the disorders, disruption and possible disintegration of their ordinary lives…Every healing art sees illness in its own terms. Patients need to remember that the illness is theirs and theirs alone.’And physicians need to remember this also.

Apart from the palliative care available for patients at the end of life, it still seems that the different forms of spiritual and religious healthcare (S/RH), complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs) and conventional allopathic clinical practice are not working together as well as they could and should. Many of the CAMs are gaining credibility within mainstream traditional healthcare but the influence of S/RH lags woefully behind.
‘It’s time we heed the symptoms indicating that our medical system is dangerously out of balance,’ says Joan Borysenko. ‘Modern technology is marvelous and lifesaving, and if we can integrate it with the deep wisdom of the past then we can birth a medicine that exalts and nurtures rather than one that is predicated on the fear of death.’
I believe that we are indeed seeing the dawning of a new paradigm in the history of medicine: we are entering an era where the spiritual healing needs of the patient can be met alongside both alternative and complementary therapies and the very best of the latest clinical medicine. There are certainly pockets of excellence across the healthcare establishments, for example the Integrative Medical Clinic of Santa Rosa, California, is at the very forefront of this exciting new world of enlightened healthcare. And in the UK we have the Christian Healing Centre Burrswood House. As in so many fields the USA leads and the UK will in due course follow the lead of America in the full recognition of truly holistic healthcare that is available for all. But much work needs to be done.

 The tableau is from our last Healing Service held in our church.

Helman, Cecil, Suburban Shaman: Tales from Medicine’s Frontline

, London: Hammersmith Press, 2006
Joan Borysenko, ‘Putting the Soul Back in Medicine’ article sourced at http://joanborysenko.com/html/news_artcl4.html 18 November 2005 now available as chapter 4 in Healing our Planet, Healing Ourselves: The Power of Change within to Change the World, at http://www.healingourplanet.com/

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

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