While appreciating the need to introduce humanities in medical studies, I feel it is equally important that medical students understand other areas of basic sciences (“For more humanity in medicine,” Sept. 11). A medical doctor has the responsibility of treating patients as well as advancing the knowledge of medicine. Medical research is especially important for a country like India. One of the reasons for its absence could be that medical doctors are taught and trained for practice and are hardly encouraged to ask questions or cultivate interest in inter-disciplinary science. Removing the emphasis from science will further alienate the medical students.
The modern, materialistic world has made man a mammon worshipper. Doctors are no exception. Dishonest diagnosis and treatment, nexus with middlemen, medical shops and pathological labs, and a reluctance to work in rural areas have become common.
For doctors today, where is the time to read biographies, poems, and great works of literature? Most doctors working in government hospitals have a private practice. Do they have the time to stand and stare at life? It is unfortunate that some good doctors who still believe in values in the medical profession are dominated by undeserving and inefficient doctors.
M.V. Surya Rao,
Voltaire said: “Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing.” Medicine is a field that involves service. A doctor should have compassion and sympathy for his patients. The West has succeeded in combining humanities with medicine. But in India, entrance examinations are a prerequisite for admission to medical colleges. They are intended to review the memory of students. Aptitude hardly matters.
American medical schools require four years of college education, which often includes courses in humanities, social sciences and arts, in addition to premedical curriculum. They prefer to admit students who have demonstrated their commitment to humanity through voluntary work. Since Indian medical schools admit students at a very young age, a course in humanities will help them learn the essential qualities of a good physician. In addition, our senior doctors should strive to be good role-models for their students. They should listen to their patients' concerns; explain their illness in a simple language, give them the treatment options, and allow them to ask questions.
A course in humanities cannot teach you to be nice to a dying man. If that quality is not already there in you, it never will be. As a typical critic of the education system, the writer is against memorising. However, in medicine, the difference between knowing and not knowing is the difference between right and wrong diagnosis. Nobody can memorise everything a subject has to offer but the power to retain a lot of information and to be able to recall it under pressure is an essential prerequisite of the medical profession. What the patient needs from the doctor is his ability to cure. Science is all that is needed. I don't care how he or she treats me as long as he or she treats me.