Reader opinion: Doctor-patient relationship must endure

January 25, 2014

A reader recalls an experience as a youth when his relationship with healthcare providers made a difference.

I was born in the charity ward of Cook County, Illinois Hospital, and promptly hustled into the orphanage where my two brothers were already students, and where my mother worked in the laundry. Just over 14 years later I reported for football practice on the orphanage football team. The practice abruptly ended with the other members of the team carrying me to the hospital with a broken leg. It was a pretty bad break, both bones piercing the skin and digging into the dirt of the field. Since this was in the days before penicillin, the only treatment was to strap me in bed, keeping the wound open so as to suppurate, and hope for the best.

In the hospital, the doctors and nurses seem to have made a point of stopping often, talking with me, asking if they could do something for me. In other words, taking a true, personal interest in me. For the first time in my life, people other than my mother paid attention to me. I was “somebody.”

Jump forward 78 years, to when a copy of the December 10, 2013 issue of Medical Economics came into my hands. The cover article of that issue is entitled, “Can the doctor-patient relationship survive?” My answer to that question is, “It had better. Or the doctor-patient relationship has died of a lost heart.”

 

                                    Stuart Lyons

St. Johns, Arizona

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