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From the Heart of a Patient

By Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway
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By Dorice Arden, Submitted by Linda Burke-Galloway, MD, MS, FACOG

Sometimes it is our patients and readers who become our greatest teachers. On March 16, 2011, I turned in my resignation from a public health position that I held for almost 15 years. I simply could no longer practice medicine in the manner upon which I had been trained. I blogged about that experience and one of my readers, Dorice Arden, who I now consider an online friend wrote a poignant comment that I’d like to share with you. It speaks from the heart. I hope we all have the ability to listen.

“Reading your post this morning was a shocking reminder of just how low the value for humanity has sunk. The notion that patients are considered a commodity has far-reaching consequences. The very thread that ties us to our humanity is the value we place on life and life-sustaining measures. The attention and care we share with each other sets the tempo for the future. Infants are now born to an environment that welcomes them with the ringing of a cash register.

Likewise, how we spend our last days can also be symptomatic of an accounting exercise. My personal experience with the care of my mother’s treatment for cancer, at a renowned NYC hospital was appalling. My brother was in high school, I had just graduated from college and our mother was dying. She had colon cancer yet, a young doctor ordered a brain scan test. When I asked why the test was ordered he replied, do you want to know the truth? Stunned with not understanding an option I assured him I did. Well said he, "it is to beef-up the file.”

“Beef-up the file” are words I shall never forget. To consider my 51 year old mother’s fate and the inhumane attention shown her by this doctor was despicable. However, it speaks to how health care has diverted away from giving attention to the humanity it is charged with protecting and defaults to pledging a profit.

Assuredly, I did not permit a brain scan to be done on my dying mother but, that experience affirms the need to question and question again the principles that guide the medical profession.

Though, it is not only the medical profession that has lost its way. The conscience of this nation has been altered by marketing mavens who craft messaging to a level of persuasion that views life as a business opportunity.

We the people must revisit critical thinking as an asset and not an inconvenience. Simply ask why; make the truth be heard and be certain the answer has value that resonates with your better angels.

Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway, though we have never met, somehow I sense that your good work will persist and we shall be the better for it. Wishing you peaceful moments…”

Thank you, Dorice. 

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