On Being a Patient

On Being a Patient

Pranab Chatterjee (University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, India)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 3
DOI: 10.4018/ijudh.2012100109
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Published narratives on doctor-as-patient experiences show that physicians become more empathetic once they have gone through the process of being a patient. In this article, in response to a published doctor-as-patient narrative, the author enquires into the possible reason for such empathy-in-hindsight. The objectified and structured medical education system which puts little emphasis on soft skills, a rapidly evolving technological-diagnostic revolution that is distancing the patient from the doctor and lacunae in development of communication skills in doctors come up as probable reasons for this. Narratives of physician-patients provide good learning points, especially with respect to the lacunae in the teaching of empathy, communication and humanities in medicine.
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Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C'est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c'est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.

The Project Gutenberg has translated the original French passage as (Pascal, 1958, p. 277): “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the Universal Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives itself to them; and it hardens itself against one or the other at its will. You have rejected the one, and kept the other. Is it by reason that you love yourself?”

The first half of the sentence, thus, maybe interpreted in another way. The heart has reasons which “science” knows nothing about. The Project Gutenberg translation thus has dichotomous tones which is not heard in the more commonly used translation that the author has used here.

Interestingly, the Google Translate (http://translate.google.com) version reads:

The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing. You feel a thousand things. It is the heart that feels God and not the reason. That's what faith is perfect, God felt by the heart.

This is closer to the commonly used translation, and also mirrors the one used by the author, although the spiritual overtones are preserved.

The author uses the more colloquially accepted (and also less controversial) version of the quotation, which, by dint of wide usage, has become accepted in most cases. Although the quote does have a linguistic or semantic quirk, there is no doubt that it does bring the article to a logical and philosophical ending, so one cannot contest its appropriateness.

At the end of the day, narratives like these just point out the lacunae in the medical education system which causes medical professionals to have empathetic epiphanies only after they have been on the bed instead of at the bed.

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