The obligation of physicians to relieve human suffering stretches back into antiquity. But what exactly is suffering? One patient with metastatic cancer of the stomach, from which he knew he would shortly die, said he was not suffering.Another, someone who had been operated on for a minor problem--in little pain and not seemingly distressed--said ...
The obligation of physicians to relieve human suffering stretches back into antiquity. But what exactly is suffering? One patient with metastatic cancer of the stomach, from which he knew he would shortly die, said he was not suffering.Another, someone who had been operated on for a minor problem--in little pain and not seemingly distressed--said that even coming into the hospital had been a source of suffering. With such varied responses to the problem of suffering, inevitable questions arise. Is it the doctor's responsibility to treat the disease or the patient? And what is the relationship between suffering and the goals of medicine? According to Dr. Eric Cassell, these are crucial questions, but unfortunately, have remained only queries void of adequate solutions. It is time for the sick person, Cassell believes, to be not merely an important concern for physicians but the central focus of medicine. With this in mind, Cassell argues for an understanding of what changes should be made in order to successfully treat the sick while alleviating suffering, and how to actually go about making these changes with methods and training techniques firmly rooted in the doctor's relationship with the patient. He uses many stories and anecdotes to demonstrate that there can be no diagnosis, search for the cause of the person's disease, prognostication, or treatment without consideration of the individual sick person. Cassell goes on to explain what needs to be known about a person, as well as the importance of recognizing the dual standing of doctors both as physician and person. Making an eloquent case for seeing the symptoms within the context of the patient's whole life and person, Cassell injects a critical element of humanism into what has become a largely technical discipline.
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