But the best physicians’ dependence on science is tempered by an equal dependence on things that cannot be categorized as scientific because they are not measurable. Compassion, ability to talk and listen to patients, and the ability to form long and trusting relationships with them are just a few of the humanitarian qualities that are necessary to round out the “complete” physician. My response follows:
July 10, 2012
Wall Street Journal
Letters to the Editor
In her letter “The Right to Health Care Means Little Without Doctors” of July 10 Christine Cassels, MD mentions that doctors are essentially scientists and that they are accustomed to being tested. She implies that scientific prowess defines the competent physician.
But scientific competence alone is not what many patients are looking for in their physicians. They want a doctor who is compassionate, listens and talks to them, and who acts in their best interests regardless of any regulations imposed by insurance companies. These are humanitarian qualities that cannot be measured and have little to do with scoring high on performance tests. Any discussion of a doctor’s capability that ignores them does a disservice to those physicians who resist insurers’ regulations and struggle to keep a humanitarian outlook.
A renowned physician-ethicist once wrote that medicine is the most humane of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities, underscoring the duality of medicine.