Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Human Touch: Does It Belong In Medicine?

Doctor holding patient's handThe New York Times asks: “Should the doctor hold a patient’s hand” during emotional times? The comments that follow the short article are the most interesting. Most readers say this question shouldn’t even be asked and that human compassion should always win out. Touch is a human gesture of comfort and understanding.

But some readers disagree. One said she recoiled when the doctor reached out to touch her hand after telling her that her cancer had returned. It felt really creepy to her. Another asked: “What if the physician is also a Catholic priest or a pediatrician and a priest?” Whoa. It becomes more complex when you get into the psyche of the abused.

I have often thought that one of the appeals of chiropractors is that they “lay on hands” and touch and manipulate patients. With 21st century modern medicine, physicians can treat entire episodes of illness with tests, scans and robots and never actually touch the patient. No wonder people feel “dehumanized” and wonder if doctors really care. Touch and compassion are part of the entire human experience and the physician is present during a patient’s most stressful time. But wait, there’s another side.

I know a physician who is absolutely wonderful. He is warm and compassionate and provides excellent care. One of his patients filed a complaint with the medical staff because he hugged her and she felt it was inappropriate. She believed he had crossed the professional line by hugging. Here is a physician who genuinely cares and spontaneously hugged a patient and she complained that it was intrusive and even went so far as to call for an official investigation. It was devastating for him.

None of us can read minds. The best we can do is look for nonverbal cues from patients and try to respond based on intuition. I guess that’s the “art” of medicine. What do you think? Should physicians hold a patient’s hand or offer a hug?

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »