Wednesday, December 23, 2009 | Categories: Dr. Brian's Blog
Our penultimate show of the 4th season of WCBA was all about the impact of medical technology on the craft of medicine and the relationship between you and me. From the invention of the stethescope to the MRI, health professionals have been in a struggle to stay human in a technological world.
It's easy to see the arguments presented on the show in two extremes. There are those of you who believe technology answers all of the great medical mysteries. Then again, there are those who believe in the laying on of hands and that some things should remain beyond our technical prowess.
This show would not exist if it weren't for your passionate responses. Every once in a while, we receive an extraordinary email or letter that illustrates the danger of veering too far towards either extreme. In response to last week's show, we received this email from a woman whose identity we are protecting at her request.
" Hi, I listened with great interest last Saturday (December 19) as the impact of technology on the modern practice of medicine was discussed. There seemed to be some question about whether medical information provided by technology would replace the information gleaned as a result of the doctor/patient relationship. A kind of "science" versus "the arts" conflict was being set up.
As a medical services consumer, I think this a false dichotomy. I want an approach that brings me to an accurate understanding of the state of my health. I believe this means a well-managed pragmatic, holistic, up-to-date approach, using all the tools and information available.
Here's why. Two years ago, my wonderful GP of over twenty years decided to take a sabbatical for a year. A young recently graduated family doctor, who clearly had not yet developed her level of skills in patient/doctor interaction, took her place. He also was not very familiar with my medical history. These issues were not a concern for me as I was just completing what turned out to be a fairly gentle journey through menopause, and I didn't foresee many medical appointments in my future.
That fall, I applied for some insurance that required a health check up, including blood tests. For the first time in my life, I was turned down on an insurance application. This was puzzling, as my GP had given me a clear bill of health at my most recent annual check up, which she conducted before leaving on sabbatical. I requested and received the results of the blood tests and took them to the new doctor now working in my GP's practice. He appeared as puzzled as I because there were no apparent symptoms of disease. However, he did note some discrepancies in the test numbers and, on that basis, referred me for a full battery of tests including a CT scan.
Fast-forward four months. I am lying on the bed of a CT scanner in a local hospital. The technician enters the room and hovers over me. Very carefully, she asks: "What are you here for again?" I will never forget those words or the heavy pause that followed them because, with that fifteen-second interaction, my world changed forever. The CT scan had revealed a very large tumour later diagnosed as Stage 4 cancer. After surgery, I began a program of chemotherapy. One year has passed since that difficult time and I still thank God every day for the scientific and technological advances which saved my life.
What do I want? The art of healing or technology? Let's have both. And let's have both grace and speed for the thousands of Canadians awaiting compassionate and effective health care."
My wish is that the writer of that email enjoys peace, happiness, and a long life. And the same to you!