Sunday, May 15, 2011

Care or Cure: International Day of Compassion

Famous ethicist John Rawls believed that in order to promote fairness and equality, coming out of the ‘veil of ignorance’ is imperative. He idealized a society where there was no social status or labeling associated to individuals and everyone could be entitled to same social rights.  Perhaps John Rawls envisioned a social model based on morality, ethicality, and virtues. His ideology seems similar to that of Dr. Patch Adams who intends to design a society based on ‘care systems’.  Dr Adams philosophy of holistic care integrates cause with compassion and is a consciousness raising effort of utmost importance in healthcare system today. Historically, health has been analogous to medicine and ‘bedside manner’ has therefore been a critical part of Doctors’ diagnosis and care relationship with their patients. However, over the years this contemporary facet of medical ethics has been slowly replaced by tyrannical pathology and health technology. Hence, the medical model with its many inventions may have reduced the pain. But it has been unable to eliminate the suffering in the absence of human feeling and compassion.  

In the United States, the efficacy of medical fraternity with its interdisciplinary team of health professionals indeed has been commendable in conquering many chronic ailments. Their toil coupled with ongoing innovations in clinical practice has led to scientific, yet sometimes impersonal approach to patient health. The ascending cost of care at the medical practitioner’s end and the out of pocket expenses at the patient’s end have perhaps made healthcare a big-ticket item, especially for the ones indigent and vulnerable. On the other hand, a culture of individualism in the society has made compassionate healthcare a remote possibility. In the midst of an existing sympathetic model of medical care, Dr Adams has conceived empathetic care with his astounding fun and play therapy. His new age healing integrates health of the individual with that of the family and community. His model of health does not believe in fixing the patient, but stabilizing their wounded emotions through love, joy, and humor. Dr Adams creative and famous care through joy of clowning helps restore and rehabilitate patient’s health with difference.  His benevolent intervention and humanitarian approach to the practice of medicine is a much needed component in the healthcare system today. Imagine if compassion would have been the cornerstone of healthcare, we would not have been indulging in the business of antidepressants! Or relying too much and too often on sedatives and tranquilizers leading to prescription drug abuse. Moreover, had compassionate care and not just ‘cure’ been one of the precepts of healthcare, health insurance would not have been a booming business in the United States.  

Dr Adams healthcare model seems applicable in severe trauma cases, such as war victims, war veterans, and children besides patients in institutionalized care and hospice. By sharing charismatic and colorful touch, Dr Adams and his team express the ability to uplift depressed emotions and infuse positive energies among those dejected and disconnected from the mainstream. Such phenomenon certainly is deeper than the acumen of medical science. Also, Dr Adams’ radical ideas can be elemental in bringing progressive change in our lives, community health, and society at large. Encouraging such altruistic initiatives and learning from them can be helpful in uncovering a benign emotion named compassion that each of us is blessed with.
Gesundheit! (wishing good health to all)   

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Photo Courtesy:  elblogalternativo


  1. Barkha,
    Thank you for the kindness and compassion you stand for always. Thank you for supporting Patch. and most of all, thank you for being the loving person you are.

  2. Barkha, this is an excellent, well-written and informative post, which bears relevance to all of us and our well-being. The current system resembles an old machine that has broken down, because it is designed on a limited and outmoded paradigm based almost wholly on pharmaceuticals and invasive procdures, while ignoring the whole person and his/her social sphere.

    I believe it's time for change and a more humanitarian approach, as you have presented in the persona and ideals of Patch Adams.

    Thank you for the thoughtful and relevant post, which I will now Tweet and share on FB.

  3. @askcherlock Thanks Cher for inviting me for this noble cause. It is always a pleasure to read your comments.

  4. @Lynda Lehmann: Thank you Lynda. I really appreciate your honest and thouhtful perspective on this post. I agree it is time now to revamp the system. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. At the end of the day both cure and care matter. if care comes from the loved ones, it ensures emotional health.

  6. How true! Today healthcare is only technology oriented. Even a common cold gets a long list of tests and investigations to be done before the doctor ventures on a diagnosis or treatment. we need doctors who sit by the patient's side and holds his hand instead of impersonally rushing out to the next patient. I have seen Patch Adams' movie several times and not tired of it.

  7. Medications help alleviate physical pain and family help to relieve emotional pain.

  8. I think your article covers the subject very well getting to important choices for us as a society. I believe that there is an immense veil of ignorance, e.g. most American's (USA) belief that Foreign Aid takes up a significant portion of our federal budget. Even if the United Nations Foundations speaks optimistically of the Millennium Development Goals and peoples view of them, I do not believe most Americans know or feels any connection, using charity for "others" instead of establishing sustainable systems of mutual support. The Patch Adams approach is admirable and should be incorporated, but it is more a way of behaving in the world that is behaving compassionately. That though should be applied to any activity. The medical care also has to also be effective, which you do give credit. One problem for society though is that it also has to be efficient, particularly in terms of cost. This is more of a systems problem. There is without doubt an almost mechanistic, say clockwork universe approach to medicine these days. In the days of William Harvey, this was likely seen as saving mankind from horrific plagues. In the era of bureaucracy it becomes to seem more dehumanizing. It is a two edged sword. My nephew is attending UCLA for medicine and spoke to me yesterday about determining the mass of proteins by measuring ions to selected them within specific types of kidney cells. Technology lets doctors work at a bio-molecular level. He says the specific work he does is only a piece of a larger puzzle so at this level of medical detail no one person could put together the whole picture. Our ability now to extract data and the complexity of the human body with 50 to 75 trillion means the amount of data is overwhelming so bringing all this back to the human level may often seem unimportant. I have to wonder though how much is contributed to this dehumanizing by the bureaucratic systems under which most hospitals and health care systems used to provide care exist? It is these systems that bridge our technology with our human to human interaction. Lately, I have been interested in Disruptive innovation an idea by Clayton Christensen and its application not only to the medical field but public policy overall. It is a systems approach to these issues, but even if successful they would still need to be applied through a veil of compassion to meet the vision of an ethical society. Now in regards to your question, you put two concepts together and make me assume that they are one. We need both compassion and wisdom. Even a fully compassionate medical system is going to have to follow sound financial and operational systems or business systems. There is nothing wrong in being business oriented, as opposed to profit oriented and I do not believe it is mutually exclusive from being compassionate. Appreciate you dropping me a line. Take care.

  9. HI,
    Barkha Dhar

    I am one of your recent reader and follower. I really like your writing style and all your articles. I really like your blog and the way you work for the social causes. Thanks for your efforts towards the society , the awareness is really needed to bring a reform and your blog really helps spreading the thought.
    By the way, I would like to tell you that because of all your efforts which I found very inspiring You are one of my few Sunshine Awardees.

    I have learn a lot from your Blogs. keep writing and enjoy blogging.
    You may visit my site and see that I have put a link of your site so my readers could also explore your posts.

  10. Thank you Brian for sharing your valuable knowledge with us. Sometimes it is frighteneing to see the mechanistic perpsective of the society that seems to be loosing touch with empathy. Yes you are right that every institution needs to have a break even, but at the same time they should know when how much becomes too much.
    Barkha Dhar

  11. Hello Akanksha,
    It is so thoughtful of you to visit my blog. It is always a pleasure to meet like minded people who believe that our society needs change. Indeed, you are right my friend that every thought counts just like every drop of water in an empty vessel. I am glad that you enjoy my posts and it is the love and blessings of my readers that inspires me in return.
    With Love,
    Barkha Dhar

  12. Pharmaceutical industry corrupts health care. Doctors receive to prescribe, writing articles about how good a medicine, lawmakers also receive money and are constantly visited by lobbyists.
    Even the regulatory agencies like FDA in US and MHRA in UK are part of this kind of mafia.
    It looks like a conspiracy theory but even the English parliament has done a review "the Influence of Pharmaceutical company" in 2005. They explain all the methods of corruption and how drugs that are harmful are at the market just to make money.
    Still, as they say that medicines is the third source of profit for UK, nothing was done.
    Medicine is becoming criminal:
    Vioxx, Gardasil and antidepressants SSRIs, Prozac-like are examples.
    This is one of the most serious issues we are facing since we are talking about health.
    When prescribed search the web for informations.

  13. Yes, Ana the pharmaceutical industry has great lobbying power. This helps them to sell drugs OTC or as prescription medications. Many antidepressants actually have been known to cause depression and corruption is everywhere and at all levels. Sadly, it has now become a way of life. Thanks for stopping by.


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