The following themes constitute the major elements of my philosophy on medicine:
Medicine is not simply a job. It is a mission, a vocation, a calling. Medicine demands the total commitment of one person (the doctor) to another person (the patient). When the patient trusts the doctor with his life, their relationship goes beyond mere responsibility and commitment; it takes on the mantle of nobility. The relationship between doctor and patient should be sacred, almost divine. The doctor's primary concern should be protecting the patient's life, rather than protecting his own legal rights. The doctor-patient relationship is unique because no other human enterprise forms a relationship as deep and sacred.
When a doctor treats a patient, he does not simply treat a disease; he treats a person who has a disease. This holistic approach involves treating the disease and all of the psychological turmoil that comes with that disease. It involves treating the fear, anguish, confusion, and anger that accompany a diagnosis of cancer. Often, treating the disease itself is less difficult and takes less time than managing the patient’s emotions. This takes understanding, compassion, warmth, and above all, love. Love is an integral part of the equation; without it, it is impossible to care for the total person.
For a doctor to deliver the best possible care, he must be extremely knowledgeable and have the most current medical research data at his fingertips. Having excellent science on which to base treatment is the main factor in successful therapy and the triumph of life over death. A doctor must also recognize the limits of his own knowledge and seek consultation with his colleagues. Modern medicine depends to a great extent on group consultations and team management, rather than the efforts of an individual doctor. In treating cancer, obtaining a second opinion through group consultation with other specialists is of paramount importance. It is the best way to guarantee the quality of care. The treating physician should be humble enough to know his limitations and obtain these consultations because they are in the best interests of the patient. I believe one of the key elements in our practice is our access to group consultations with experts from different fields of medicine.
The patient should always be treated as a dignified human being, as one of our loved ones, as a close friend or a member of our family, as someone we know and love. He should never be handled like a number or a statistical equation. Therapy should always be delivered in a family atmosphere and in a highly personalized manner. We should never subject patients to research protocols for the service of medicine; instead, we should employ medicine in the service of patients. Even in clinical trials with patients who receive research protocol treatments, the treatment should be in the patient’s best interests. The patient should be treated in the most dignified manner, in a personalized, warm, and human atmosphere. There is nothing more devastating to a patient than being treated like a research “subject.”
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