May 5, 2006

Letters to the Editor

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Medical profession needs to value all patients

I am writing this letter in response to a story in the April 21 issue of The Criterion.

The article discussed how Dr. Gregory Gramelspacher was teaching medical students to learn to respect and care for patients in their final days.

Although I applaud your including the story and am very supportive of what Dr. Gramelspacher is doing to encourage his students to develop empathy, I must admit that the article, nonetheless, concerns me.

I am a student at the Indiana University School of Nursing and will graduate in December.

The article made me concerned for my profession when I read that “[the student’s] regular home visits with the elderly man changed their relationship and her approach to becoming a doctor. She grew to care for the terminally ill patient as a person.”

This, to me, begs the question “What kind of doctors are we turning out that are not caring for their patients as people?” and must be therefore caring for them as a specific illness instead of a live person with feelings, wishes, desires and faith.

I must say this absolutely appalls me, given all of the emphasis that has been placed on caring for the patient as a whole—body, mind and soul—and not just as a disease during my course of study.

I am concerned that the medical profession might be headed down a dangerous road if the kind of thinking that a patient is merely an illness continues to pervade.

Thank you, Dr. Gramelspacher, for trying to correct this problem and for including this article, but obviously, it’s an issue that needs much more work.

-Rebecca F. Helton, Indianapolis


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