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Monday, February 18th 2008

NY Times Magazine Article: Miracle Workers?

This is a pretty spot on examination of patient expectations of physicians and why the paternalistic physician-patient relationship will always linger in the background, no matter how much we promote patient autonomy. Go read the entire thing.

When my mother found out she had myelodysplastic syndrome, the terrible blood cancer that eventually took her life, she oscillated between numb despair and acute panic. When she was panicked, nothing those who loved her did or said could calm her down, let alone console her. And yet we soon learned that if we could reach Stephen Nimer, her principal physician at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, by telephone, or if, better still, Dr. Nimer could make time to see my mother, however briefly, her awful distress would abate — at least for a while.

[W]hen all was said and done, I think that my mother’s relationship with her principal doctors can only be fully understood — and was only fully effective — because it was in some ways as shamanistic as the relations our ancestors knew before the advent of modern scientific medicine.

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