“Medicine is not a science,” said Dr. Eric Cassell to a packed room at the annual Coalition for Compassionate Care of California conference in Sacramento last week. “Clinical medicine, the care of the sick, takes place between the doctor and patient in an almost magical, interpersonal relationship.”

Medicine as magic?

During his keynote speech, the long-time palliative care physician lamented the loss of a founding principle in American medicine: the intimate relationship between physician and patient.

“We’re seeing a generation of physicians who have lost its sense of being a doctor,” said Cassell. “Most of them have forgotten how important it is to have a relationship with the patient … We understand less about people than we did in the 1970s.”

A fearless, old school physician unafraid to toss out casual obscenities, Cassell echoed a lost generation of physicians who still made house calls and offered their full attention during office visits.

Long considered the step before hospice, palliative care can actually be offered at any stage of a serious illness and focuses on humane treatment. It is sometimes called “comfort care.” It’s quickly becoming mainstream just as hospice – unknown before the 1970s – has now become standard medical procedure for those with fewer than six months to live.

Cassell – author of the 1980s classic The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine – spoke about different approaches to palliative care, inspiring this question:

Which would you want at your bedside during a serious illness? (…) Read Full Article Here

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