Healing Touch — Balancing the Equation

Image Source: https://bit.ly/pathwaytowellbeing

After three semesters of classroom and cadaver studies, we were exposed to our maiden interaction with the ailing. Our senior housemen and registrars had already replaced ‘case studies’ with ‘clinics’ for our training but the gravity of the wordplay had not sunk into our student minds yet. So far, we had only objectified patients and looked upon them as stepping stones to clear exams.

The word ‘patient’ itself is suggestive of ‘suffering’-Latin etymology. The disparity between physician and patient was huge in terms of socio-economics and healer-seeker structure. The physician played an active role by prescribing and counseling while the patient had to passively wait in the lobby for his turn and pop pills as per dosage commands. The role of a physician then was purely paternalistic.

Health care as we know now is not only about the sick and infirm all the time. It also has a wider spectrum of preventive and community welfare in the form of immunization, care during pregnancy, advice regarding nutrition, and hygiene in perfectly healthy individuals — thus making the word ‘patient’ a misnomer.

Terms like cretin, mongoloid, and epileptic are out of use as they are derogatory. Client and consumer are not popular as they carry the unwanted baggage of business and litigation. Consequently, ‘patient’ has been long in usage either because there was no good substitute or the alternative was not deemed right.

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Now, there is a paradigm shift in the physician’s approach. He only imparts knowledge. The decision-making is left to the ailing and therefore the consequences too. The physician is a facilitator and not a fixer.

With the advent of social media, booming mass awareness, and economic parity the hallowed tradition needs to undergo a complete metamorphosis. The biopsychosocial aspect of human bonding and collaborative effort of ‘shared decisions’ must be stressed. Thus we can have a ‘clinician’ and a ‘clinician’s confidential teammate’ — CCT in short replacing ‘patient’.

Let us consider a real-life situation. Imagine the personal history sounding like — I am a diabetic for 10 years wherein the adjective is redundant and patient (suffering) is implied or a casual introduction like — this is my physician Dr. Shah and I am his patient Raj wherein his lament is no more latent. This is the imbalance that needs to be corrected.

As a confidant, we could choose words to convey the temporal distribution of their present condition. For instance, replacing ‘diabetic’ with glycemic excursions. This would do away with their ‘tagging’ and promote a symbiotic culture of mutual respect.

The purpose is only an attempt to rectify what existed from the Roman Era of stratification as patrician and plebeian, to declutter the hierarchy, and to avoid stigmatization. This could have long-term implications for our own professional conduct. After all, words function as metaphors that shape our reality and expectations.

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Dr. Parameswaran Shanker is from Mumbai, India. He has imbued nuances of Integrated Medicine into his practice. Interests include travelling and birdwatching.

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Dr. Parameswaran Shanker

Dr. Parameswaran Shanker

Dr. Parameswaran Shanker is from Mumbai, India. He has imbued nuances of Integrated Medicine into his practice. Interests include travelling and birdwatching.

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