A spiritual checkup in the time of medical advances
We know what a checkup is—a thorough examination, specifically a physical or medical one. I must have performed thousands of checkups in my 47 years of medical practice.
As a clinician, I undertake fundamental steps that are focused on good history-taking with the patient, to learn personal habits and family backgrounds, as well as to conduct a routine physical examination.
Quietly, we also evaluate the condition and needs of our patients, using our senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell.
As a traditional clinician, I strongly support the change in specialty medicine. Modern medical equipment and facilities are, undeniably, gifts from God. Relying solely on these material gifts, however, is risky. It can easily corrupt the mind.
It is saddening to note that God’s will is often disregarded, if not ignored, with the use of attractive modern medical equipment. Some of our doctors have become fully occupied with their use, forgetting where these came from.
Thus, more than medical breakthroughs, new challenges have emerged, involving both doctors and patients.
Over the last 20 years, some 40 percent of patients are sent home from the emergency room without getting accommodations for financial reasons, because hospitals continue to require a deposit before treatment.
The same percentage of patients use out-of-pocket money to pay doctor’s fees, expenses for medicines and use of basic laboratory facilities in the emergency room; obtain treatment only through health maintenance organization or HMO-registered physicians; seek confinement in hospice clinics; and have “copilot” interventionists to act as prompters on prepared checklists when confined in the ICU, lists which are normally entrusted to ICU-experienced nurses.
10 minutes of consultation
The same percentage of patients now consists of only five to 10 minutes of consultation—shortened by 70 percent.
But that’s not all. Nowadays, 60 percent of patients switch to cheaper generic medicines instead of what doctors prescribe, don’t comply with dosage and disregard the use of diagnostic tests, even for lifestyle diseases such as a stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney failure, among others.
Many also refuse a DNRO (Do Not Resuscitate Order), even for first cardiac or respiratory arrest or in terminally-ill patients.
In the cases of patients with suspected dementia or cognitive mental disorders, hospitalization costs have quadrupled, resulting in the early discharge of patients.
These unfortunate situations result in a conflict between the doctor’s responsibility to his patient and the patient’s primary needs.
With the high costs of erecting modern hospitals and the acquisition of the latest in medical equipment and facilities, the factor of economic gains has become unavoidable, particularly where doctors are part-owners in the investment scheme.
A deeper understanding of a doctor’s work, considered one of the noblest professions, is imperative. According to bioethics, doctors must practice professionalism devoid of self-interest.
A doctor-patient relationship starts with the routine checkup, the first interview. This initial encounter is crucial as the doctor gathers information from the patient, so that a healing process can be developed. A maximum of 10 minutes is not going to achieve that result.
As in any relationship, it’s important to put God at the center. This means that physicians should always relate to God our plans, thoughts and desires with regard to the care of our patients.
With God’s presence, physicians would get better guidance, direction, advice and protection, thus giving us more confidence.
Spiritual markers are available through the course of our relationship with God. We became children of God in baptism; He speaks His words in gospels; various graces flow from the sacraments of confirmation, confession, matrimony and the Blessed Sacrament.
Sacred scriptures further show how God is never preoccupied or neglectful. He looks upon us with more love, care and comfort than a nursing mother.
Drawing near to God in our relationship with our patients requires us to take two actions.
First, we must cleanse our hands, our way of living; and, second, we must purify our hearts, make our thoughts, attitudes, and motives pleasing in the eyes of God, and in harmony with His plans.
Similar to making a good confession, five steps could be recommended for our patient:
1) Examination of conscience. A patient must recall his or her lifestyle: physical, emotional, moral and spiritual.
2) Contrition of sins. Recognize and accept possible causes of health problems, and be sorry for them.
3) Purpose of amendment. With humility and honesty, assure the doctor that he or she will give up unhealthy habits that brought the illnesses.
4) Obedience to God’s commandments. Strictly follow medical advice.
5) Fulfillment of penance. In addition to the normal routine of medical check-up and follow-up, attend Mass on holidays of obligation and participate in corporate works of mercy.
Performing a spiritual checkup with patients is not only advisable, but also illuminating to both parties. —CONTRIBUTED
Dr. Ricardo Sto. Domingo Ledesma, 83, obtained his medical degree from the University of Santo Tomas, Class 1960, and practiced as a private medical clinician for more than 39 years. He was actively involved in the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference and the National Congress of the Clergy, for which he was conferred the Papal Award “Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice” by Pope John Paul II on Feb. 14, 2001. He has written and published two books, namely, “Living Life Close to the Lord” and “Encountering God’s Presence,” as well as various articles on health, spiritual faith, evangelization and stewardship.
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