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Doctors Should Do It the Patch Way

BY JEANNE MARIE VITALICIO

I was 10 years old when I first saw the movie ‘Patch Adams’. But back then I couldn’t appreciate its essence like I did this time when I watched it again on T.V.

The movie is based on a true story about Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, a doctor who revolutionized medicine with his new approach. This involved making patients laugh and providing them with emotional affection. Patch was in his thirties when he checked into a mental hospital for trying to commit suicide. One of the patients in the hospital taught him how to look beyond the problems to find the answers, while others helped him to help himself.  It was then that Patch realized the answer that he had been searching for. He was now able to forget his own problems while helping others forget theirs. It was there at the mental hospital that Patch found out what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to help people, learn about people and listen to people. What better profession to be in to do that than a doctor’s?

Unlike the stereotypical doctors we have these days, Patch believed that to cure the disease, you must treat the patient as a person and not as an object. He advocated that doctors should treat the patient, not the disease and that sick, frightened people needed to feel that those who took care of them were paying attention to them.

Imagine lying in a bed with a disease and monitors beeping. No one even knows you’re there, unless your machine starts to go off. The doctor doesn’t care if you die today or tomorrow, as long as they get paid. This is the grim reality for the majority of unfortunate people with terminal illnesses. Very seldom do we see doctors who care for the patient’s feelings as much as Patch did. Doctors these days merely do their jobs for money. They don’t give much attention to their patients. Anyone who is deprived of the attention or consideration that he deserves feels bad about it. This can possibly make his condition even worse. On the other hand, having someone treat you with great affection and fondness brings emotional contentment and satisfaction. This contributes a lot to the betterment of the patient. Several doctors, even nurses, are confronted with patients with different problems everyday, and that might be the reason why they are sometimes crabby and inhospitable. But I personally think that if they’re getting tired of interacting with patients, then they definitely shouldn’t be doctors or nurses in the first place. To be a successful professional in your chosen field, you have to have passion and enthusiasm for what you’re doing. You should never get tired of what you opted for.

Another thing that doctors should keep in mind is that patients, in some way, help them develop not just into better doctors, but also into better persons if they just try to look beyond their diseases and external appearances. Going back to the movie, a mental patient who Patch met in the mental ward showed him four fingers and asked how many he saw. Initially, Patch said he saw four, but when the patient asked him to look beyond those four fingers, he saw more. This only goes to show that if we try to look further than what we perceive, we will see plenty of other thoughts and things connected to it. It’s like when we focus too much on the details of a certain problem, we tend to overlook its solution because we’re not thinking or analyzing beyond the details of it, or we are not applying it to “real life”. Knowing the “right answer” isn’t always possible in “real life”, which is precisely why we have to look for the possibilities beyond the conventional views of things.

The conventional views of doctors on the way they treat or cure patients is not always the right way or the right answer to the patient’s entire problem. Doctors should try to look beyond the external problem of the patient and try to touch his or her emotions. They could make the patients laugh; make them feel that they are being cared for. Doctors should try to liberate themselves from set norms and practices, and this can be done without completely abandoning them. They could stick to the conventional views and look beyond the patient at the same time. Just as Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams did.

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Man, that’s deep. You’re awesome.                                                                                          Neala Gabriel Tuazon   5/3/07

 

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