‘On being both professional and human’: a response

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A recent publication in the Internal Medicine Journal touches on some sensitive points. It emphasizes deficiencies in communication between doctors and patients and between doctors and families of the patients, particularly in extreme medical circumstances that are likely to end in death. It stresses as well the trauma of seeing a loved one reduced from a human being with a distinctive biography to an impersonal clinical problem. Such articles have a long history but seldom produce any change in the attitudes or practices of the medical profession. There seem to be a number of reasons for this, including clinicians' ambivalence towards the real importance of ethics in medicine and the lack of a forum in which consumers and doctors might air and discuss their experiences of suffering and disappointment. A forum for mutual discussion is suggested as the most constructive step to take. Medical education has not proven to be an answer to the problems of sensitive communication.

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