Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media
Do we really need another squishy-squashy book? For some time, books, journals, conferences, grand rounds, and courses have been telling us to be nicer to our patients. Entire institutes, to say nothing of hospital divisions, carry on about spirituality in health, mind-body medicine, and therapeutic touch. Bioethicists hover at the bedside. You would think the message had gotten through.
On the other hand, just two years ago, after my friend Alan (not his real name) endured at an internationally renowned cancer center all of the interferon trials available for his untreatable metastatic carcinoma, his oncologist (one of the investigators) told him that he had nothing more to offer. Perhaps, the oncologist went on to say, Alan—frail but fully alert and walking about—should contact hospice. Alan ended up in the hands of a macrobiotic quack, who told Alan that he usually cured cancers like his and that if Alan didn't recover it would be because he hadn't contacted him soon enough. Alan didn't want to leave any stone unturned. For the last six months of his life, he gave up the fine food he relished for a diet of miso soup, tofu, and seaweed.
MedicineThe Human Effect in Medicine: Theory, Research and Practice. JAMA. 2001;285(1):96-97. doi:10.1001/jama.285.1.96-JBK0103-3-1