2 February, 2021

In the last century, the role of physician has changed drastically for both better and worse. In the past, doctors were ill equipped even to diagnose, much less to cure most ailments. All they had were herbal remedies and painkillers. During last few decades however, the practice of medicine has changed dramatically by advances in doctor’s ability to diagnose and treat diseases. We have diversified into specialty experts, organ experts, and disease experts. There is no question at all that curative power of the doctors are vastly greater today than even before. Unfortunately our power to heal people have diminished as dramatically as our power to cure disease has increased. This is because the knowledge of human nature that used to be the doctor’s principal resource has been abandoned as irrelevant in an age of science. Science has become God and separated itself from patient.

What has been lost is the human dimension. To imagine a sense of what medicine used to be, we must look to cultures where traditional medicine still plays a role. Today white collared allopath repairs the patient and tends to be mechanical, while alternative therapists/non Allopath/family physicians treat their patients more than their disease, by being there for them, supporting them and loving them in addition to caring for their physical problems. They are able to redirect patient’s lives, not just treat illnesses. They take down the facts of the patient’s medical history, family history, dietary history etc. They notice worried looks of patient’s face, tremble in his hands, puffy face, slurring speech and even the dreams he has, all potential signs of what really troubles him. On the other hand, we as sophisticated modern experts rely on CT scan, MRI’S PET scan and blood reports. For a family physician his most important diagnostic tool is his “touch” and his communication skill with patient. Patients have more confidence in family physician and they follow his instructions. They don’t understand the medical jargon dictated by senior experts. Patients often tell the experts “please talk to my family physician and explain my problem to him” .One of my patient said to me” you will treat me but he (family physician) will heal me. He is going to look after me after you have operated me.”

One day I was sitting with a senior family physician when a man with ulcer cheek came to his clinic. There was foul smell from his cheek wound with maggots. I was repelled by the patient. But the family physician, found something lovable in him. He looked him over, searching for something good he could appreciate. He noticed that the man had new and very neatly tied shoelaces, so he related the man through his shoelaces and treated him in a loving way. He supervised patient’s dressing and got all maggots removed from the wound. Man was grateful to the family physician but he said “I cannot pay your fee today.” Family physician smilingly replied “never mind.” But you need an oncologist’s opinion and care for this wound. You see me in two days time for repeat dressing. By that time I would have talked to the oncologist and fixed up an appointment for you. Two days later, patient visited family physician; clean, well dressed, looking much better and he explained that two days back he had decided to go to the Railway track to commit suicide. He changed his mind after he met the loving physician. He said “I felt your acceptance and your love, you encouraged me to continue living. I want you to know what a difference your kindness made.”

The painful lesson from this incident was learning how difficult our patient’s lives are. Not all of them want to live. Some of them will find the will to live only if their doctors accept them, love them and heal them.

My appeal to all experts “be a facilitator of healing; you may not be the healer yourself. Revert to the roles of old doctors who touched and communicated with their patients.
Don’t be mechanical curator; be a healer!


Dr. A.K. Dewan
Director – Surgical Oncology


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