Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Commenting on my December 15 blog entry, a reader (something tells me not to publish readers’ email addresses) said...

“So good to hear your words. In the past 7 months I have had 3 surgeries (mastectomy, port installation, and breast reconstruction)and chemotherapy. What means most to me are the kind touches and words from the medical staff, and a hug I got from my plastic surgeon. I find that the medical staff do want to hug but I have to make the opening for that to happen, and I will continue to do so.”

As for the healing value of kindness, I rest my case.

The reader adds the point that some practitioners want to hug, but seem to need permission from the patient. I’ve written here about medical people feeling they need to maintain a detached, “scientific” persona, an attitude that opposes spontaneous warmth. That’s not healing for patients, and decidedly unhealthy for practitioners themselves. I’m reminded of a therapist in Berkeley some decades ago who stapled the poster for his men’s groups all over town. It displayed a photo of boys at the beach around 1900, vying to show off the hugest biceps. His caption was, “Tired of holding that pose?”

I think the reader raises another issue, too. Well-publicized and often justified litigation has left many of us afraid to touch one another. Teachers are wary of hugging their students, and bosses their employees. Physicians can fear that their warmth toward patients might be erotically misinterpreted, and so hold back.

Yet medical practitioners, fully as human as patients, need and deserve TLC. The reader writes, “…I have to make the opening for that to happen, and I will continue to do so.” Reader, you’re my Hero of the Day.

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