"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

Let's between us make the world a better place.




Thursday, 7 February 2013

Compassionate Healthcare - An NHS in need of healing

My friends and followers will notice that I have been quiet for an unacceptably long period of time. The truth is I have been hiding away to complete a book on depression - hopefully to be out later this year.

But I have to put my head above the parapet to comment on the dreadful events at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Yes it's in the UK but my comments and thoughts apply equally to the American healthcare systems.
Following the Francis Report on the enquiry into this fiasco, our Prime Minister has called for more compassion in the health system. Whilst it has to be said many health care workers are doing an excellent job, it seems that some nurses and doctors have forgotten how to care for their patients.

It is often said that the physician used to be able to cure rarely but care always. Now it seems that the reverse is the case: he can cure very often but somehow it seems that there is often little room for the caring and the healing…

Michael Mayne, busy parish priest who subsequently became Dean of Westminster Abbey within the Anglican Communion, was well qualified to write about the patient’s perception of healthcare. In his book A Year Lost and Found he describes his experiences and struggle with a debilitating episode of ME, or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, the post-viral fatigue syndrome. Of all the various treatments and advice he received for a condition that is still very little understood, he significantly gives special credit to a certain Dr D, whose particular efficacy in helping him cope with his condition is attributed to his grasp of the inter-relatedness of body and spirit…Mayne wrote:

"he talked and he tested or massaged parts of my body. Sometimes he just talked. He had the great gift of encouragement. He understood that the question ‘How are you?’ is at root a metaphysical question, which is not sufficiently answered with clinical lists and data …but goes to the deepest part of ourselves as the complex and uniquely precious beings we are." 

Mayne tragically died from cancer in 2006, but not before heroically putting the finishing touches to his final book The Enduring Melody. This started as a meditation of his life, but when the cancer struck it became his daily meditations interwoven into an autobiography of his final year. The book is a brave and very thoughtful journal through those last ten months. It culminates in a reflective essay on illness and healing, and the need for a holistic approach.

To treat a disease,’ he said: “is to inhibit it and hopefully help the body to destroy it or control it: to treat a patient is to observe, foster, nurture and listen to a life...
In an ideal [health service] it would be good if every doctor and nurse in training would reflect on the mystery of the human being with both the learning of the scientist and the observation and sympathy of the novelist or the poet.” 


This is an adapted extract from my first book Healing This Wounded Earth, where in two prescient chapters I write how the health services lost sight of what I call Soul Medicine, in the rush for latest high tech cures, and how we need to return to this more compassionate health care - for the sake of ourselves and our world ; a world in desperate need of healing.  

7 comments:

JAVS said...

Sorry, as a North-American, I don't know what happened at "the dreadful events at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust." Can you say more about that? I do know that, in the U.S., time constraints on physicians and the evolving culture of technology-driven medical practice leaves less and less time for physician-patient interaction.
btw, I'm looking forward to reading your most recent book.

JAVS said...

Sorry, as a North-American, I don't know what happened at "the dreadful events at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust." Can you say more about that? I do know that, in the U.S., time constraints on physicians and the evolving culture of technology-driven medical practice leaves less and less time for physician-patient interaction.
btw, I'm looking forward to reading your most recent book.

Eleanor Stoneham said...

I'm sorry JAVS I should have expanded on that! The hospital suffered a higher mortality rate than might be expected and appalling stories have been gathered of patient neglect - not having even their most basic needs attended to - culminating in the Francis Report - here is a good link that summarizes it - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2274296/Mid-Staffs-report-Families-head-NHS-resign-damning-scandal.html#axzz2KOP1foxK - I agree I think this problem is the same basically that you have in North America - too much technology and targets and not enough basic compassion?

Eleanor Stoneham said...

PS JAVS - I hope you enjoy the book - do let me know what you think in due course.

a-spiritual-journey-of-healing said...

Dear Eleanor,
Thank you for your thoughtful
words.

I myself have suffered very poor treatment in hospital in the past, in order for the hospital to protect themselves from having caused my condition to decline - interestingly M.E. as with the late Michael Mayne.

I personally think the question "How are you?" is unlikely to be asked with meaning in a busy hospital environment.
But I do believe that hospitals could realistically remember that the patients are PEOPLE not just a job to be done or a statistic.

"Do as you would be done by" is perhaps the simplest tag with which we can remind ourselves to show compassion whilst retaining the reserve perhaps necessary in jobs where one faces so much pain and grief.

Katherine

JAVS said...

Wow, Eleanor, the link you gave (to the Daily Mail article) was frightening! It offers a glimpse into what might happen in the U.S. if we ever have a National Health Service (which I support, in principle). A friend once remarked that American hospitals were like Turkish prisons - you needed someone watching out for you at all times or you might die. It looks like even the concern and pleas of loved ones didn't help improve the care at Staffordshire!

JAVS said...

Wow, Eleanor, the link you gave (to the Daily Mail article) was frightening! It offers a glimpse into what might happen in the U.S. if we ever have a National Health Service (which I support, in principle). A friend once remarked that American hospitals were like Turkish prisons - you needed someone watching out for you at all times or you might die. It looks like even the concern and pleas of loved ones didn't help improve the care at Staffordshire!

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera

Madeira

Sunset

Sunset
with vapor trails

Followers

Total Pageviews