Power to heal lies in humanness


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Category: Health Care Date: 14 Aug 05


“Exceptional patients manifest the will to live in its most potent form. They take charge of their lives even if they were never able to before, and they work hard to achieve health and peace of mind.


They do not rely on doctors to take the initiative but rather use them as members of a team, demanding the utmost in technique, resourcefulness, concern, and open mindedness. However, exceptional patients are also loving and understand the difficulties a physician faces IF they are not satisfied they change doctors. In most cases my advice to a dissatisfied patient is to give the doctor a hug. Usually this makes the doctor more willing to respond to the patients needs because you become an individual to your physician and are treated as an individual, not a disease.”


Excerpt from Love, Medicine & Miracles

by Bernie S Siegel, MD


Last week, I quoted from this Yale professor, surgeon and author who, after years of practicing medicine is convinced of the tremendous power of the human mind in bringing on and literally wishing away disease, pain, side effects of powerful medicine such as chemotherapy and radiation.


In this book, Dr Siegel who coined the phrase exceptional patient reveals how HE became an exceptional physician.


Once he too was an ordinary surgeon working under enormous pressure.


When a patient was taken to the operating room with severe bleeding, the staff was tense and panicky until the surgeon walked in.


“Now the knot was in my stomach, and everyone else relaxed. The stress followed me home. One of worst hardships is having so little time to spend with ones family.


The kids were constantly asking, ‘Are you on call tonight?’ For most people, the ringing of the telephone is a friendly sound. For us it meant anxiety and separation. Moreover, I was suffering from two-way guilt: snatching a few hours off felt like stealing time from my patients while the 16-hour day felt like stealing time from my wife and children. I was exhausted.”


Dr Siegel who operated mainly on cancer patients began keeping a journal in which he saw the everyday horror of illness, of depleted lifetime savings, of shattered family lives. This introspection changed something in him.


“I’d been dealing in cases, charts, diseases, remedies, staff and prognoses instead of people. I’d thought of my patients merely as machines I had to repair. I noticed my co-workers language. A child in a diabetic coma an interesting case. This case happened to be a sick frightened child with distraught patients.”


His professional coldness melted away. He saw that the man dressed in the institutional hospital skirt, was a businessman, accustomed to making decisions and being in charge, and struggling not just with the illness, but to keep his dignity in a situation in which he felt out of control.


He realised that doctors distancing themselves from patients didn’t make them immune to suffering “just buries the hurt on a deeper level.”


So Dr Siegel opened the door to his heart as well as his office. He committed the “cardinal sin” in medicine: He got involved with his patients.


He pushed his desk to the wall so he saw his patients as equals. He encouraged them to call him by his first name. He began hugging patients. He began learning from them. How they healed themselves using their minds. How a doctor’s words if negative can push a patient towards relapse if positive, get him well again.


In that process, Dr Siegel became the exceptional physician.


“By allowing myself to feel as sharply as I could, the same pain and fear that my patients felt, I came to realise that there is an aspect of medicine more important than all the technical procedures.


“I learned I had much more than surgery to offer. I concluded that the only real reason to stay in this business was to offer people a friendship they can feel, just when they need it most.”


If more our doctors recognised their human rather than medical power to heal their patients they would go the Dr Siegel way.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur