Anna Quindlen made a speech to healthcare professionals about how doctors should treat patients and their families. Her 83-year-old father had recently died from burns over 40 percent of his body. She praised his caregivers.
As you would imagine, her words are potent. “They put a human face, a series of human faces, on my father’s care.” Her speech is online at HumanizingMedicine.org, and read it now because it will be taken off the web in December.
In her comments on medicine Quindlen talks about journalism. Newspapers used to be faceless dispensers of information, and readers “had their back fences to chew over their tragedies, their disappointments, and their dreams.” Now newspapers use social media to facilitate those discussions.
She likens the power relationships inherent in medicine with the power that journalists have. When interviewed, you have every good reason to wonder whether I will get your story right — or wrong. But doctors have power over our very lives.
And so she makes the case for empowered patients, patients and family members who are armed with knowledge, who want to be treated as individuals. “People want the press to see them . . . as a person. They want the doctors and nurses to see them as something more than files. . . We are part of a society that has suddenly discovered that it has no human face and that is terrified and repelled by that fact. ”
I learned of Quindlen’s speech from another of my favorite writers.