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Humanistic healthcare is ethical too

Humanistic healthcare is ethical too

The fundamental principles of humanistic medicine are open communication, mutual respect, and emotional connection between physicians and their patients, termed “patient-centered” care.  Humanistic healthcare attempts to complement physical treatment by connecting with patients through empathy, patience, and compassion.  It is characterized by a respectful and compassionate relationship between physicians, his team, and their patients. Humanism reminds us that illness and recovery—and living and dying—are an integral part of the whole human experience. We need to look for well-rounded, firmly grounded and genuinely humane individuals as medical students as varied as the patients they will serve, who know how to listen to, respect and care about other people and   who will make a commitment to helping the underserved.  However, the best health professionals are those who look for not just about the money, but bring cheer on the face of his patients. At its core, health care is about helping people in need. The medical humanism movement seeks to understand the patient as a person, focusing on individual values, goals, and preferences with respect to clinical decisions. The second movement is evidence-based practice, which aims to put medicine on a firm scientific footing; experts evaluate the best available data and develop clinical guidelines designed to standardize procedures and therapies.   Attitudes of these humanistic physicians include:


a)Approaching patients with a sense of humility and real curiosity about their lives, especially toward those patients to whom it may seem difficult to relate

b)Treating their patients as they themselves would wish to be treated

  1. c) Seeing their role as not merely taking care of the medical aspect of their patients, but also helping their patients through life struggles– ‘being there with and for the patient.”


Empathy and objectivity

Having an illness or injury may cause a variety of feelings, including fear, anxiety, depression and a loss of control.  In some situations, a condition may be terminal, which intensifies certain feelings, such as hopelessness. Patients want to know they are getting the best care, and that is conveyed to them better when their doctor is empathetic and compassionate. While being compassionate is an important part of being a good doctor, it is essential for physicians to strike the right balance between empathy and objectivity.


Though all areas of medicine require a touch of humanism, nowhere else the need is more than the suffering due to cancer. Cancer is now recognized as a major threat to public health. More than one million new occurrences of cancer are diagnosed annually in India, which has a population of 1.3 billion. The high cancer mortality rate (68% annual incidence) in India likely reflects the large proportion of patients who present with advanced disease and the limited access to cancer care in some parts of India. The dedication, skill, and compassion of Indian doctors cannot be overstated. Many of them could work in the private sector, where they would have much higher income. However, their senses of altruism and individual responsibility to improve the lives of patients with cancer in India, kept them unfazed. The compassion of the physicians and the critical role of family in the provision of care for the terminally ill represent the epitome of humanistic medicine.




Compassion involves demonstrating characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity, kindness and warmth–and when these are lacking, it is a poor care. Task based care is frequently impersonal and not what people want. Instead they want to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion attributes that cost nothing. Kindness and compassion are two core human values. Kindness is an act or a gesture done out of goodwill towards a person or another living creature. Compassion is a deep and personal emotion and is defined as the ability to understand the emotional state of another person, i.e. ‘putting yourself in another’s shoes’. Compassion Iis defined as a virtuous response that seeks to address the suffering and needs of a person through relational understanding and action.  Compassion is cited in professional guidelines, standards, and extensive literature as essential to patient-centered care. Compassion should be an essential attribute to selection of a medical student. It may be needful to mention here that incidence of depression and anxiety among medical students is very high, as compared to other students. Why? There are at least two ways to explain the high rates of depression among medical students. One focuses on the people who are attracted to careers in medicine. Perhaps medical students are more perfectionist than others and more liable to become discouraged when they make mistakes. It is also possible that medical students are especially compassionate and more liable to become depressed by frequent contact with suffering. Aptitude to bear with the sufferings and having nerves of steel is also essential for the medicos to possess to render long term service. Cramming certain facts and scoring in the entrance examination is not all important. A good doctor has to be a good human being first. Padam Bhushan professor B.M.Hegde said at  hotel Marriott Chandigarh, while speaking at SPEAK India awards of excellence, function, “Please treat the patients as if they are your near and dear ones. All problems of ethics will be solved immediately. There is human ethics to be learnt by one and all. Each person has to be true to himself first. Treat everybody as your friend with no feelings of hostility or grudge for achieving positive health” Dr. Hegde added.




Patience is a lifelong spiritual practice as well as a way to find emotional freedom. Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power. It’s an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act. To many people, when you say, “Have patience,” it feels unreasonable and inhibiting, an unfair stalling of aspirations. Patience is a form of compassion. Frustration on the other hand  is a feeling of agitation and intolerance triggered when your needs aren’t met; it’s tied to an inability to delay gratification. Without patience, you turn into your own worst taskmaster. You treat spouses and friends as disposable instead of devoting the necessary time to nurture love. But with patience, you’re able to step back and regroup instead of aggressively reacting or hastily giving up on someone who’s frustrating you. You’re able to invest meaningful time in a relationship without giving up or giving in. In fact, patience gives you the liberating breath you’ve always longed to take.


Expressing frustrations in an effort to resolve them is healthy, but it must be done from a non-irritable, non-hostile place. If not, you’ll put others on the defensive. Wallowing in frustration leads to endless dissatisfaction, placing us at odds with life. This emotion makes us tense, kills our sense of humor. It also leads to procrastination; we put things off to avoid the annoyances involved. Conquering frustration will revive your emotional life by making it your choice how you handle daily hassles and stresses.

With patience, you’re able to delay gratification, but doing so will make sense and feel right.

Whereas frustration focuses on externals, patience is a drawing inward towards a greater wisdom. Patience, a gift when given or received, moves within reach when you can read someone’s deeper motives.


You practice patience and shun frustration. To turn the tables on frustration, find a long, slow-moving line to wait in. Perhaps in the grocery store, bank, post office. Instead of getting irritated or pushy, which taxes your system with a rush of stress hormones, take a breath. Tell yourself, “I’m going to wait peacefully and enjoy the pause.”  Practicing patience will help you dissipate stress and give you a choice about how you respond to disappointment and frustration. When you can stay calm, centered and not act rashly out of frustration, all areas of your life will improve. Doctors and patients both need to practice patience.


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