Doctoring, Care and Human Value

Hey guys! I’m still alive!20140708-024632-9992416.jpg

It has been a long time since I’ve written here. I could give a thousand excuses as to why but, to be honest, the real reason is simple. My brain often goes too fast for me to type it all out. Unless I use a journal, which I’ve started doing, my brain is uncontainable in simple words and phrases due to the simple speed and thoroughness with which I think.

The cause for that is known but it is not something I care to share with the entire world. Not out of shame, mind you, but because of the principle of not believing that any one person can be quantified and assigned worth by the adjectives used to describe them. Descriptions are designed to describe or explain someone — not define them. And yet, so often, that is the mistake we make when we decide to describe someone positively OR negatively (or sometimes indifferently). Our value is inexplicable. We are far more complicated and valuable than our résumés and test scores would have us believe, and society needs to start understanding and accepting this.

I say this because it’s true. In this society we have a major problem with writing people off without even scratching the surface of who they are. It takes a long time to truly know someone and, yet, in an interview I may be written off within 30 minutes or less. Would an MD after my name or a couple extra degrees make me more valuable? If you answered yes; Congratulations, you are part of the problem.

American society tends to only value the things that we can quantify and turn into profit. One of my strengths, that make me a more decent person with it vs. without it, is my empathy and compassion over the well being others. Even strangers who can’t help me. It will also make me a good doctor. But, in a way, it could be argued that being a doctor is a way to simply quantify and qualify that attribute of myself as valuable. Said simply; Being a doctor won’t make me a better human being. Being empathetic and compassionate will — and it will also make me a BETTER doctor. It can not replace an md. But. It can give me the drive to get one.

Doctors are quite unique in their jobs, if you ask me, because what’s required of them to be good at it goes far beyond an education. Obviously, that is required, but it’s not even close to all of it.

It is my observation that the best doctors (of mine, at least) are the ones who are the most decent human beings. They just happen to also be highly educated and motivated by their compassion and care for me to find the answer to my suffering. They also CAN be great if they’re fueled by a need to find the answer to a problem to find the diagnosis and proper treatment (I have seen this, in person, not just on House.) but more than that is required. You just can’t get around the need for compassion and empathy. Meaning: You have to actually care about your patient as the infinitely valuable person that they are!

Have you ever had a doctor give you a diagnosis when they don’t care about it or you? I have. It’s weird.
I tend to dislike those doctors or be more afraid of the diagnosis (or them!) when they are the one delivering it. Why? Because their attitude, body language, facial expression and especially tone all tell me things about what he or she thinks of this diagnosis, how much they care about it and how much it worries them (and therefore how much it should worry me!)

If a doctor told me I had cancer in a monotone or flippant or otherwise uncaring voice (or look or whatever) — I’d leave and get a new doctor because my life is worth more than to be left in the hands of a jerk doctor who doesn’t care about my well being. Period. If my doctor doesn’t care about me, s/he doesn’t have the proper drive to do what I need. If I’m going to die — I expect them to do everything they can to stop it. Once all of those options have been exhaustedly researched and used — and only then — do I want them to do whatever they can to make this easier on me.

When they tell medical students “What you say matters” — they mean it! Most of all, how you say it matters probably more than anything else.

Let me know your experiences! Have you ever had a doctor tell you something in such a way that had an effect on you or how you thought about your condition? Wasit good? Bad? Did it change anything? How far did that help you or mess you up?

I shared an experience here about a negative example. In my next post I’ll talk about the doctor I have that got it right and — in my first two visits — turned into my medical superman.

Disclaimer: you do not have to be a decent person to be valuable. It just will be less obvious to those around you. Sorry. I can’t make society care.