Choosing a doctor and knowing yourself.
In selecting a doctor, or better yet, in selecting doctors, it is inevitable that one will end up looking at oneself and at who one is. In my case, I have selected doctors both from traditional and alternative traditions; more importantly I came to be with doctors who suffered the transformation —Socratic in essence—- which leads from traditional medicine to alternative views, not simply of medicine, but of the human condition itself. The reason for my going these roads, though it is no easy road as both types of doctors have great suspicion of each other’s paradigm, was in part my deep belief in the importance of bilingualism with which I have been involved as ESL teacher for more than a decade and as citizen of Canada, one of the few official bilingual countries in the world.
In this respect, patients from the humanities are in special need of doctors who have been deeply involved with the humanities for only then can a mutual and healthy dialogue towards understanding, and maybe even recovery, can ensue. The work of doctor Pellegrino is here of great importance; see, for instance, his aptly titled “Educating the Humanist Physician; an Ancient Ideal Reconsidered. However, patients from the humanities must beware that the likelihood of such coincidence is not high and when illness is thrust upon us, there is little time and energy to make such connections.
One of the doctors I visited later in my illness told me very seriously I had to choose between one or the other of these treatments, and that it was my responsibility whatever I did. To this I answered calmly: “If this is so, if indeed one has to choose, then I have already made my decision a long time ago.” ( I had made my decision the very day I decided to dedicate my life to the humanities, 20 years earlier, when I was absolutely healthy.)