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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 103-104

Humanism in Medicine: Taught or Caught?

Vice Chancellor, Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication13-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
K Ramnarayan
Vice-Chancellor, Manipal University, Manipal - 576 104, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2321-4848.123013

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How to cite this article:
Ramnarayan K. Humanism in Medicine: Taught or Caught?. Arch Med Health Sci 2013;1:103-4

How to cite this URL:
Ramnarayan K. Humanism in Medicine: Taught or Caught?. Arch Med Health Sci [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Jul 3];1:103-4. Available from: https://www.amhsjournal.org/text.asp?2013/1/2/103/123013

Humanism in Medicine describes the respectful and compassionate relationship between doctors and their patients. These are behaviors that are sensitive to values, culture, and ethnic background of their patients. Humanism is an ethical life stance, which stands for the building of human society based on values. And yet, these are never taught or even attempted to be taught in a medical curriculum. Can these be learnt without being taught?

When young motivated doctors start their medical practice, they are full of idealistic hope and humanism. Often, as the years go by, the pressure of the practice of medicine makes a doctor more a technician of the body rather than a healer of the body and the psyche. Somewhere down the line, a patient becomes just another 'case.' In the era of ten-minute doctor's visit, often only a limited cursory assessment is possible. How then can we preserve the qualities of a humane doctor, which the patient seeks?

The qualities needed to be an effective doctor may be divided into two categories. The first of these categories involves the quality associated with creating a good doctor-patient relationship based on respect and compassion, with a genuineness that ensures that the patient's needs are met. A humane doctor demonstrates that he CARES by demonstrating Compassion, Altruism, Respect, Empathy, and Service. If patients sense this, they feel more bonded and trusting towards their doctors. The second set of qualities involves the doctor's excellence in clinical expertise, clinical competence, professional abilities, and a sense of strong medical ethics. This is the foundation for professionalism in medical practice.

For the patients, the 'ideal' doctor is someone who validates his pain, listens to his problems, and treats him with professional courtesy. Listening to the patient, being empathetic, communicating the risks and benefits of a scheduled procedure -these are core skills doctors need to cultivate.

Whatever good a doctor did for a patient, some other doctor would have done exactly the same. It is presumed that a doctor does his job as well as he could, based on his training and experience. No one would expect anything less. Yet doctors need to feel privileged that a patient would open his heart and soul, confess all the infirmities and sufferings to the doctor who is, verily, a stranger in a white coat!

The trust a patient bestows in a doctor is an incomparable gift, and doctors should never forget the humanism they sense. The vast expanse of human failings and tribulations of doctors are not described in any textbook. When patients communicate with doctors, the holy grounds of the patient's soul open up endlessly before them; doctors need to tread with gentleness and gratitude.

Doctors, who have chosen to make medicine their life's work, should do it with all their heart, with clean, humble, simple, state of mind of the pure-hearted. It helps one appreciate, through a long and distinguished career, the exuberant unconditional joy and happiness one felt on the very first day as a doctor and as a healer.

Competent, compassionate, considerate doctors are those who know how to heal themselves first. This is not learnt in the confines of a classroom. This is a journey that leads to the universal truth and a special talent to heal the lies within all doctors and to make them healers. The art of medicine is changing at a faster rate than ever before. What awaits the careers of doctors, one cannot prophesy. However, what will endure in years to come will be the vast knowledge of the 'art' of medicine, as it is described in the Hippocratic Oath, a clear head and a kind heart. Medicine is still the best job in the world. It is with this humbling thought that I implore that doctors practice not only the science of medicine but also the art of medicine, the heart of medicine, so that they become great healers of the body, mind, and spirit.


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