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HEART AND MIND: THE SPECIALIST – ABOUT MEDICAL PROFESSION

We are often reproached by those who cannot believe that the medical profession as a whole is mistaken in its attitude to heart disease, as we seem to suggest. And certainly we are happy to acknowledge that here and there among the mass there are individuals and areas of enlightenment. However, the general public have a rather exaggerated idea of the intellectual freedom of medical training. The medical student has such an enormous syllabus of intensive study to deal with that he has little time or inclination to question what he is told, or to look beyond the confines of hi s course. The testimony of two uncomplacent medical writers is worth recalling. First, Bruce Williamson, M.D., M.R.C.P.:

Having acquired an acquaintance with the more defined syndromes, we give to each syndrome a.title which becomes so familiar to us that we, unconsciously, proceed further and transform this mere term of reference into an entity. This entity is of our own creation. With this conception of our work — that the human body is the object of attack by these entities — the student is passed on to the therapeutic department.... It is indisputable that the majority of physicians at the outset of their career view their work as a fight against various 'diseases' and the personal factor in the patient receives little notice.... Truth and disillusionment come in time to the majority. (Our italics.)

If one may presume to paraphrase, the medical student is taught to give names to groups of signs and symptoms, and then proceeds to deal with these names, as though they were real things attacking the human and capable of being repelled or destroyed. In this situation, the contributions of the individual and his environment to his illness are overlooked.

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