Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Best is not Always Needed

A doctor at St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul, writing in the Seoul Bulletin, discusses the so-called best medical treatments available, which are not always the best way of handling a particular case. He explains what he means.

A man in his early 70s came to a hospital, having been sent there from a smaller country hospital because of a prostate problem. They proceeded with a series of tests but he didn't return for the results until 5 months later. The doctor asked  for the reason and was told he had to take of a sick person and was not free to come. When the doctor asked who that person was, the man said it was his wife; she was suffering from dementia and he had to be at her side continually. He had been been doing this for the last 10 years. Fortunately, on this day she also had to see a doctor, so he came and asked the doctor if he could speed up the exam, so he could return to his wife as soon as possible.

The biopsy showed cancer but not advanced, so the doctor recommended an operation. The man said that was impossible. It wasn't a question of fear or money but the time away from his wife,  there would be nobody who could care for his wife. Without me, he said, his wife will not eat. I have to be at her side. Isn't there something that you can do, he asked the doctor, to insure that I will live long enough to take of her? The doctor told him the best thing to do was have the operation, but if that was not possible, he suggested the use of hormone injections. This would delay the growth of the cancer. It's not the best solution, the doctor said, but if you come to the hospital and take the injections and the blood tests, this may possibly help, but there is always, the doctor warned, the chance of a recurrence,

The man said that sounded good. He was old and believed he had not long to live, so he liked what he heard. The doctor tried to talk him into having the operation but he firmly held to his position and told the doctor he had no time to talk; his wife was waiting for his return. The doctor kept his gaze on the man as he left, and thought of all the other cancer patients who had been told similar troubling news.

He realized when dealing with a cancer patient that it is not always sufficient  to outline the best procedure and think that is all that is necessary. The circumstances of each patient are different and a doctor has to deal with them as best he can. Some patients have financial problems, others have difficult family relationships, and some have personal reasons they have to deal with. 

Health is not only a question of bodily health but also of mental health. We have to be concerned, act and pray to achieve the sublime goal that we all are searching for, which, for the doctor, was love: Love of oneself, love of the other and the shared love in communion with others. This is the will of  the healing God.

The elderly gentleman is taking the injections and although not the best possible treatment, but in this case it is the best, and the results have been good. The blood test level has return to normal, and there are no signs of a recurrence. As in the past he always talks about his wife.


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