Wednesday, June 8, 2016
“Even though you may not be able to cure them, you will always be able to care for them.”-Ajahn Brahm
“I have been living in Perth as a monk since 1983. Over those years, I have gained the trust and respect of the local Buddhist families to the point where I am regarded as a sort of honorary grandpa to many young men and women. They have grown up coming to my temple and feel comfortable sharing secrets with me that they would never tell their parents!
Such a one was the distressed young doctor who came to see me. He had recently begun work as an intern in one of the big hospitals in Perth. The previous day he had lost his first patient in tragic circumstances. A young female patient of his had died. He had to tell her inconsolable husband that his young wife was dead and that his two small kids have no mum any more. The new doctor felt so guilty that he had failed that young family.
Of course, he was not to blame. He had done everything for his patient that was medically possible. The reason why he felt he had failed was due to something else, and that is what I spoke to him about.
“If you believe that your duty as a doctor is to cure your patient, then you are going to suffer this same failure again and again. During your career, many of your patients will die. But if you accept that your main duty is to care for your patients, then you never need to fail. Even though you may not be able to cure them, you will always be able to care for them.”
As he was an intelligent young man, he understood immediately and soon became a much better doctor. His main goal became to care for his patients. If his patients were cured, that was a wonderful bonus, but if they died, then they passed away in the warmth of being cared for.
Many of the appalling medical interventions that health professionals inflict on their patients, desperately trying to keep them alive when death is inevitable, occur because our society values curing above caring. Not only would many people’s last moments be more comfortable and peaceful if we emphasized caring more than curing, I think that more patients would be cured as well! “
-From “Don't Worry, Be Grumpy; Inspiring Stories for Making the Most of Each Moment” by Ven Ajahn Brahm