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Queens Chronicle

Soulless medicine

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:30 am

Dear Editor:

The whole bureaucratic nightmare of healthcare delivery in contemporary America with a zillion insurance carriers and reams of paperwork smothers patients and doctors in an impersonal market generally devoid of an authentic loving and caring relationship.

Patients are shuffled willy-nilly amongst hospital, medical and prescription plans within the private sector and the public sectors of Medicare, Medicaid and workers’ compensation, and subject to the vagaries of insurance bureaucrats, in the scramble for medical treatments, sometimes a matter of life or death. Obamacare just introduced a mandatory privatizing scheme, and rubber stamped the present American healthcare system, antithetical to a national universal healthcare plan as practiced in social democratic countries of Europe.

In the last 50 years, what has happened to family doctors who knew and cared about their patients, instead of delivering impersonal care with a plethora of tests (to safeguard against malpractice lawsuits) and promoting a pharmacopoeia of body and mind generally of palliative (and toxic) effects? My beloved childhood family doctor, Dr. Fankuchen, whose office was in a Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone on Marcy Avenue, charged $2 for an office visit, including diagnosis with an office fluoroscope of the internal dynamics of the living body, rather than static pictures. Three generations of my family were cared for by Dr. Fankuchen, even with house calls.

The bottom line is that the ideal doctor (physician or psychologist) treats the whole person of body and soul, which are inextricably a unity in health as well as in disease. A good doctor loves and cares for his or her patients as persons with the “conviction that, despite the crumbling of traditions, life holds a meaning for each and every individual, and even more, it retains this meaning literally to his last breath” (Dr. Viktor Frankl, “The Will To Meaning”). And a good patient loves, trusts and respect’s his or her doctor, rather than litigating and driving the cost of malpractice insurance through the roof.

The fix to American health care is two-fold: a genuine national healthcare system and a change of heart in doctors as well as in patients, for “the motto of life is give and take — everyone must be both a giver and a receiver; he who is not both is as a barren tree” (Dr. Martin Buber, “Tales of the Hasidim: The Later Masters”).

Joseph N. Manago

Welcome to the discussion.