Monday, January 10, 2011

CMAJ reviews Care of the Soul in Medicine

Overly ambitious attempt to reform health care -
The Canadian Medical Association Journal, 14 December 2010, 182 (18) publishes a review of Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul in Medicine, by Lara Hazelton MD, a psychiatrist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Near the end of her one-page critique, Hazelton shares:
"Moore also has lots of character-building advice for health care professionals, repeatedly suggesting that they should meditate, pray and otherwise cultivate their spirituality. He often disapproves of how we treat our patients and each other, and wants the reader to aspire to be 'a better person.' 'You are a devotee, a suppliant of Apollo, Asklepios, Hygeia, the Lapis Lazuli Radiant Buddha, Jesus the Healer, and Quan Yin,' he writes, while also commenting, apparently without irony, that 'Medicine especially has an annoying tendency toward moralism.'

It’s too bad Moore doesn’t spend more time doing what he does best, which is finding interesting and somewhat enigmatic associations between mythology, psychology, spirituality and the external world.

Still, many of his observations are insightful and thought-provoking. I had never thought of hospital information desks as establishing liminality, and yes, the receptionist probably does represent the archaic ritual figure of threshold guardian. A model of the heart in a doctor’s office becomes an object of contemplation, not merely instruction. And there is a chapter on hospital food that was a delight to read."
Hazelton observes that Moore's suggestions range from concrete tips to esoteric notions.

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