Today medicine has advanced more than ever before and the question has gone from “what can we use?” to “what should we choose to use?” We have created new natural remedies, new surgical procedures, new technology, so much new medical advances have arisen that in neuroscience we now have a new field of ethics, that is Neuroethic which is, in short, a form of ethics that questions the ethics of future advances in neuroscience, so for example if we are able to one day read peoples mind with an fMRI, is that violating the patient’s autonomy? Because there is so many advances going on, medicine in the U.S has become a huge business mainly. I recall interning during the time when the hospital I was at was being bought by another company and in the meetings it was sad and scary that out of the whole hour of talking to the physicians never was the patients themselves taken in mind. It was all about money. While sitting there I thought for a second, well if this is what I am going to hear all the time for the next months or so I should pursue an MBA instead of an MD. While all these advances and economic gains are going on one of the most important things are being left behind and that is the art of empathy. I have been around many brilliant physicians, many of them I esteem and some I became very close too, but despite that many missed the empathy component or lost it along the way. Don’t get me wrong NOT loosing your empathy along the way is hard. Doctors have to have this fine line between emotions and treatment, you cannot get too emotional but you need to maintain some emotion. It is like a switch that you turn on when you want emotions and off when you don’t, but sometimes it can be so straining that leaving it off sounds much easier than turning it on and off. Empathy is hard to maintain and sometimes hard to obtain, nobody teaches you how to react when a mother just had a miscarriage or a patient died on the table and you have to talk to the family or when you just don’t have any other treatments to do and the patient is going to die…nobody every tells you how to act not even in medical school, it is all about experience. Not even the new MCAT that is now 6 hours long because of the addition of sociology and psychology, will tell you how to act. Sometimes the best way to obtain and maintain empathy is by being in the patient’s shoes. When I was 10 years of age my sister was diagnosed with Autism, at 18 years of age my sister was diagnosed with Epilepsy, at 19 years of age my sister was also diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder and now at 20 years of age psychiatry has come into question. These last couples of years have been overwhelming with medications, treatment plans, diagnosis and procedures. I have been there, the evenings in the ED, the treatments not working, the medication changes, the side effects, the arguments with family members, the stress, the worries, the sleepless nights, the tears, the breakdowns, the patient side…I have been there and having a doctor who has minimal to no empathy does not lighten the situation on the contrary it makes the patient more skeptical and tense. I have seen so many parents say that the only thing their doctors said was, “okay, I am going to give your child clobazam 7 mL at night. See you next appointment.” Where was the time for the questions, the worries, the tears?
I like calling empathy the humane medicine because it is an emotion that makes us human. Sometimes though, empathy is forgotten and sometimes empathy is the best medicine, but because it doesn’t come in milligrams and in a medicine bottle, it is just another emotion in our limbic system…Next time you treat someone, see someone treated REMEMBER, they have a family, they have someone that loves them, they have dreams just like you, just like you aspired to be a doctor or aspire they aspire something too. Remember.