Monday, February 13, 2012

Emptiness and Medicine

I have been meaning to post about how this Spirituality in Medicine class has been sucking the life out of me. The last assignment for this five-week class includes a survey, and here are a two of the questions and my answers.

Discuss the impact of the movie Patch Adams.
I enjoyed the movie because Patch reminded me that I want to help people by being an ordinary person, not a computer full of facts. But as I watched the movie, I realized that this class would not be what I was expecting. In this class, “spirituality” meant compassion, gentleness, humanity, and respect for others. These are all good qualities of human nature, but I thought “spirituality” always implied something above nature (not unnatural, but supernatural).

Discuss any insights or new ideas you have gained through this course- anything that you didn’t like or that struck you as particularly meaningful.
I appreciated the forthright manner that the course director took, acknowledging that talking with patients comfortably about things beyond medicine is vital to good care.

But throughout the course I felt that no presenter believed their religion was the only true one. Perhaps because I strongly believe this about my religion, the class began to drain me and I started to dread going. I am glad I took this class, but am also glad it is only five weeks long.

I am also wondering why Dr. C gives a presentation. We asked her if she used spirituality, and her answer was “not really.” In fact, I was hurt by her statement about the Catholic Church “thinking the world [would] end” if she didn’t go to Mass on Sunday (a serious obligation, a precept of the Church), which mocks the Faith that I love.

I am grateful, though, to have learned how to confidently speak with patients about their beliefs, as in the spiritual history.
Similarly draining was the annual College of Medicine Faith Panel, held to give medical students information on what patients of different faiths need and want. The panelists included:
  1. A sikh M4
  2. A buddhist undergrad
  3. A Lutheran vicar (in training to be a pastor)
  4. The pastor of my parish
  5. A Jehovah's Witness elder
  6. A rabbi
  7. A Muslim student
  8. An atheist (whom you've met before; I went home crying.)
Jesus, Mary, Joseph; save souls!

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