OCHIENG: Excellent medicine without a human touch is of no use - Daily Nation

Excellent medicine without a human touch is of no use

Sunday June 10 2018

Cuban specialist doctors

Doctors from Cuba arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on June 5, 2018. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Medicine is not, in William Shakespeare’s celebrated words, “…the be-all and the end-all here…”  Other measures may prove equally effective in restoring a human being to normal health. None the least, you must never ignore anything that might help save the life of a relative or a friend.

That is why you must rush your patient to a place where proper medicine is on offer.

Today, indeed, all adequately trained medical practitioners know very well the significance of psychology in the treatment even of a physical problem.

The traditional African medicine-man and medicine-woman seem fully aware of the significance of psychology in physical treatment. Hence the abracadabra with which he or she tries to cow and belittle the patient in psychological terms, namely, in trying to show that he is closer than they to the powers that be above.


Yet all medical practitioners the whole world over seem aware of the significance of psychologically reducing the patient to the medicine man’s mental power. Apparently, they know that effective treatment does not depend on physical medicine alone.

It may depend also on the extent to which you can psychologically belittle your patient.

This seems assumed to help the patient to contribute effectively to his or her own recovery. However, that fact can be said about practically all human social situations.

Even in a hospital, a human being can often get better merely as a result of “soft” psychological handling much more than as a result merely of hard medicine.

No, let me not give the impression that there are situations in which medicine is not important. Please do always struggle to take your patient to a good hospital or a good doctor whenever necessary.


For doctors and nurses are the human beings trained to handle “with soft hands” the ailments of human beings. The human goodness made manifest by a medical hand may frequently prove much more effective even than the medicine offered.

The idea I want to stress here, then, is that treatment does not depend on physical medicine alone.

Even a doctor will tell you that a person needs to be treated with great psychological care for him or her to respond as rapidly as possible to treatment.

Very importantly, therefore, even expert treatment will succeed more as a result of the soft and caressing hand of the human being who is offering it.

Just as important is the human goodness that a doctor, a nurse or any other individual may proffer in the process of trying to save a human life.

That is why, no matter how thorough your knowledge be of modern medicine, if you do not turn that knowledge and skill into actions that are humane, your skill may not prove of any social avail whatsoever.


 In other words, all human societies need to consciously revolutionise their understanding of the concept of medicine and of the idea of treatment. For that understanding seems to have gone haywire in many, if not all, human societies. First, treatment is not a question of the patient’s physique alone. Equally significant for the treatment to be effective, it must involve also the patient’s psychology.

The final cure may depend on how positively the patient’s mind is situated concerning the medicine being offered.

If the patient’s mind is already too pessimistic, ordinary medicine may prove totally unhelpful. That is why, in the human world, every hospital must create or be socially furnished with departmental conditions whose purpose is wholly psychological.

Such a department would be aimed at fully supplying all the patients with conditions necessary for buoying up their minds, ensuring them a psycho-physical cushion and offering them every hope for recovery. For, as long as a human being is still breathing, all relatives will entertain the hope that his or her recovery may be just a matter of time.