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HEART AND MIND: THE SPECIALIST

In less formal circumstances, a thoughtless word dropped by someone in authority can set off a train of thoughts and events which may result in complete invalidism or premature death. Prof. Patrick Geddes observed, about a century ago, that 'specialism means knowing more and more about less and less'. Some later wit took that a stage further, to define a perfect specialist as one who knows everything about nothing. In the present context, such cynicism is sadly justified. Truly understanding heart problems means considering the habits and mental outlook of the patient, as well as his overall physiological condition. A heart specialist knowing anything at all about psychology and environment could not make such fearful — yet routine — blunders as adding to the patient's burden of fear, or concentrating his search for cause and cure upon the heart itself.

To produce a return to normal cardiac function and balance, it is necessary to investigate and correct all gross errors in the patient's physical and mental existence. Only when this has been achieved, and permanent weaknesses recognized and compensated for as fully as possible, can it be claimed that correct treatment has been given. This is so completely at variance with the approach of the cardiac specialist that one cannot be surprised at the failure of orthodox medicine. The more intensively the specialist operates, and the more solicitous he is about the patient's symptoms, the more certain is the condition to deteriorate. The unsuspecting onlooker sees no connection between the grave demeanour of the specialist and the patient's breakdown; rather the sad sequence is seen as proof of the great man's competence — he was the first to recognize the real seriousness of the case...

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