What can we learn from inspirational physicians?

“It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”
– Hippocrates

The Internet has the ability to connect us regardless of geographic location, socioeconomic status and age — it really has no boundaries. I grew up in a time when today’s technology was not the norm and having a pen pal offered you a way to connect with someone you didn’t otherwise know.

Nowadays, we can reach other people almost instantly through social media and online platforms such as blogs and articles. This week, I stumbled upon written work from two physicians — one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom — that moved me and, in turn, will undoubtedly move you. Interestingly, their themes are very similar about how physicians often take a conservative approach with their own health, especially when facing death.

Meet Dr. Kate Granger

A quick glance at Kate’s blog and book website clearly shows that she has many followers and is a role model extending beyond her community. Kate is a doctor and author in her 30s with a rare form of terminal cancer (sarcoma). All profits from Kate’s books are being donated to the Yorkshire Cancer Centre in Leeds, U.K. where she is being treated. In her latest post, she discusses the issue of resuscitation and end-of-life planning. Her realistic approach is refreshing and inspirational as she says, “We are all going to die, nothing in life in more certain,” knowing we “as a society have to accept that some health conditions are incurable.” I really admire her courage to openly address her wishes to not be resuscitated with valid reasons that are often not graphically discussed.

Meet Dr. Ken Murray

Ken is a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California. He wrote a very poignant piece that appeared in Time titled “Why Dying is Easier for Doctors.” Through anecdotes about a colleague, patients, and his cousin, he illustrates how physicians when faced with aggressive life-saving treatment, will often choose a more conservative, peaceful route to death. He accurately states, “If there is a state of the art of end-of-life care, it is this: death with dignity.” He too describes the horrific scene that often unfolds with resuscitative efforts. Adding his personal outlook on death creates a realistic, identifiable approach to end-of-life issues that physicians know, but may be reluctant to discuss.

What can we learn from these physicians?

Be real. Be authentic. The humanistic side of medicine is what unites us. Although we have both technological and medical advances today beyond what was ever dreamt of even 20 years ago, we must remain realistic about healthcare outcomes. Despite being a physician, I will opt for a more conservative wait-and-see approach versus a more aggressive take-action approach any time I deem appropriate. Ironically, I had a recent such experience — it is probably pretty transparent where my decision fell. Also, kudos to my physician who said to me, “This is what I would do if it were either me or one of my family members.” As physicians, we are aware of the potential benefits versus risks of treatment options, however, sometimes the side effects of treatment outweigh the consequences of no treatment.

Do you know any other physicians that add a personal touch to their work and are an inspiration to others? I would love to hear about them.

Sara Taylor is a family physician who blogs at Sara T., MD. This article originally appeared on Fulfilled Physicians.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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