Let us reflect

I just left my Health care ethics course, feeling rather reflective (hence the obvious title of my post today).

First, we had a discussion of the Hippocratic Oath, as well as the Ethics Code adopted by the AMA. We were all under the impression that it was a natural duty for those in the profession to the adopt the codes, only adding emphasis to certain parts of them (like patient confidentiality) but never de-emphasizing them.

Right after, we watched a film about a course offered at Harvard Medical School about a student/patient interaction that involves meetings with patients who have life threatening illnesses. The story was a typical patient-changed-a-doctor's-life story, but our discussion afterwords was particularly telling. After our class had agreed that it was a doctor's duty to take the integrity of their position into consideration all of the time, several students remarked that empathy was sort of an "assumed" quality of those who are entering the health care profession.

Um....no? Of course I looked at everything from an extreme psych POV, having not only been to therapy and had other friends/ family members, and people that I actually saw in a therapy-esque situation....not all practitioners are that sensitive to their patients. In some respects, given the demands of the job and the high rates of malpractice suits, etc...I can see why it would be easier to try to maintain objectivity, and perhaps systematic equality, by not reaching out to each individual as an individual person with emotions, yada yada yada.

But, especially with growing research, it seems to me like it's NOT obvious at all that people have empathy. So it seems sad, but shouldn't we be taking a more proactive approach to healthcare in ensuring that all professionals have some sense of care beyond the text and diagrams of grey's anatomy and the DSM-IV? It used to be that psychiatrists (yes, psychiatrists, as in MED SCHOOL professions) had a requirement of attending therapy sessions, partially to always have an outlet for their stressful schooling, but also to be able to get a chance to see what it's like "on the couch." If I'm not mistaken, this requirement has been taken away.

Hopefully we can bridge the so-called empathy gap, at least when it comes to health care. It seems to me that anyone who is in a hospital situation is put at an immediate switch, from their daily lives of running errands and being aware of others, to being completely out of control and having someone essentially making very difficult decisions for them. For any psych student that has taken a developmental (child psych) class, there have been numerous studies about the affection that infants need at a critical age, sometimes resulting in death. (See this link) Attachment is crucial in healing, and this definitely extends to the physical.

As an aside, I would like to take this opportunity to say that yes, health care is a RIGHT not a privilege. There are a disgusting amount of deaths in this country because people did not have the monetary means to receive extremely available care. Letting someone else have insurance does not mean that a) you will be without the opportunity to receive quality care, and b) that our country will be a presto-changeo socialist country. Not only are some of the bills proposed supporting equality for equal coverage and QUALITY OF LIFE for many U.S. citizens, but also provides for preventative care, an essential component of a complete health insurance policy for women and men alike. It would also save us lots of money! Come on!

Happy health to you all. I suggest dancing if you're feeling low....mentally OR physically :)

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