Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The qualities of a good physician

Heiner Fruehauf has translated part of a very interesting passage from a 1000-year old text about the qualities of a good physician.  To see the whole text, look at his website:    

Every physician should be warm and dignified by nature, humble and respectful by disposition; polite in actions; soft and flexible in behaviour; devoid of self-aggrandizing attitude and without indulgence in pride and extravagance.

…Wealthy and poor patients should be treated with the same level of attention, and those with rank and those without social status should receive the same type of medicine.   

…Nobody should ever be treated the same way – this principle was most important to the wise physicians of old”

These extracts are taken from his translation of A Guide to Children’s Health:  Theoretical Discussions and Treatment Plans, 1156 AD.

I have chosen a few passages which are particularly dear to my heart, the most important to me by far being the last, a precept, I notice, which is closest to the anonymous author’s heart, too.  “Nobody should ever be treated the same way.”

This is one of the reasons why I love being a five element acupuncturist, and why some people find this too challenging a discipline.  No five element acupuncturist can look up in a book to find a prescribed set of points for a set condition.  Each person presents a unique challenge to the practitioner, a unique puzzle, a conundrum which needs to be solved anew at each treatment.  The question each time must be, “What treatment should I give today which meets my patient’s needs of today?”  And, I emphasize, “of today”, because today’s needs always differ from yesterday’s, and differ even more widely from those I diagnosed when first I encountered my patient.  Our anonymous author says, “Nobody should ever be treated the same way”, and I would add, “nor the same way as they were treated when we last saw them.” 

We may be delighted to see how the previous treatments have helped our patient, but we cannot then rest on our laurels and simply repeat what we have done so far.  The patient coming to see us today is different from the one who came yesterday, or last week or last month.  He or she has lived another cycle of minutes, days or weeks, and is thus a different person from the person to whom we bade farewell last time.

And I have often experienced a slight shock when the patient coming into my practice room today appears so different from the one who left me after the last treatment.  Life has added another layer to them, and may either have further burdened them or lifted some of that burden, but will have altered, however slightly or radically, the interplay of the elements within them.  Since time never stands still, the elements which reflect time’s pressure upon us can in their turn never stand still.  And thus our treatments, directed at these elements, have to adapt themselves to take account of these changes.




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