On True Believers

And no…I am not going to talk about religion.

Instead, I am going to focus on medicine or at least the philosophy of medicine.

What really bites me these days is the lack of introspection within health professionals and their esteemed professions. Its unfortunate that our profession (for the working) and studies (for the students) are too demanding (deservedly so) for us to really sit down and consider issues that may or may not pertain to our field of expertise.

Take for instant, my home (Melbourne). Our stock here are at the extreme ends of medical application. One focusing on the beginnings, public health and health policy. The other at the end, about dying and the realization that our buck is about giving care to people.

I am going to comment on my side of things, the end of life.

Palliative medicine is an expanding field. Much maligned and very much misunderstood. Thankfully, I am not going to gripe further about it today, lucky you.

Have you ever wondered about the direction of modern medicine? Lately the glamour news for the past decade are new treatment options centred around genetics and immunotherapy. Prevention medicine is out of the window for its too cheap (no profit in it for investment), too slow, too obscure, too difficult and hence wrongly considered ‘ineffective’. My public health colleague will have a field day dissecting detractors of prevention medicine. Those idiots probably have shares in the current high-flying biomedical companies.

What I will touch on is the psyche of all of those heading in this current direction. To me, it seems there is an element of self-deitification, where we in our hubris and ignorance have puffed ourselves up in the name of the ‘greater good of mankind’ and scientific ‘development’. The whole danger of all these is that we miss the whole point of medicine, which is about the person and his/her well-being. Sure, you may think I am a Luddite and I do not have the ‘future vision’. But, I think we have pushed ourselves far too much along the spectrum of science and technology. We will need good science but not at the expense of the person.

Because of this hubris belief in the superiority of science we have let basic principles slip through our fingers. For example, to cope with increased demand, we should increase supply. We don’t do that anymore, we don’t provide extra beds or build more hospitals. Instead we try to either push human resources to the brink or hope that we can discover that wonder drug/procedure/technique which will cure everyone and we will all be happy.

No, we have succeeded in prolonging life and nothing more.

Have we forgotten the basics of life? We start as an infant, growing up to become children, adolescents, adults, middle-aged and then elderly. Problems exist at all stages of life regardless of a hope for cure. For man is fallen and all parts of him are. There is no cure for our doom (that’s my religious message for the day).

Bringing the whole point back to end of life care, we will have to accept that people will die. Unless we set our minds straight about preparing them for the good death, we are not going to get anywhere with this issue. Unfortunately, this is not we teach in our medical schools. Hubris dominates, petty ambition dominates, uncalled competition dominates and the patient is left by the wayside.

This is what you get by living in this house of mine. We are medical professionals (soon to be) but we are the true believers. Prevent first, cure sometimes, relief often but comfort always  =D

Watch this space. We are going to change our world one step at a time.



~ by shybeg122 on November 19, 2008.

One Response to “On True Believers”

  1. Totally agree (but are we preaching to the choir boys? ;P ). However, I’m always queasy about terms like prevent, cure, relief, etc – simply because it sort of implies that our focus once again is on the disease (eg: we aim to relieve him of the S/S of xxx pathology). Rather, our eyes should be turned to health and welbeing, and recognize that prevention, cure, etc are merely tools in our arsenal of bringing about true health, amongst a myriad of others. They are important means to an end, but not an end in itself.

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