The title of this post is the title of a wonderful new article in JAMA; an article describing 3 patient encounters by 2 physicians at different stages of their career and a medical student. Read it if you have access, and if you want to be reminded why we do what we do (or if you are not a physician but you want to find out).
Richard Lehman’s weekly journal review had this to say about the article and the author of the quote that starts the article, the gloriously named Avedis Donabedian :
Donabedian spent his life trying to define and examine quality in medical systems, and at the end of his life wrote “Ultimately, the secret of quality is love.” Everything else he wrote is so rigorous, nuanced, endlessly detailed, and scrupulously analyzed that this simple, heartfelt assertion comes as a shock—and yet of course it explains what drove his immense effort. Do read this article: it is not soppy at all, though it deals with the central question in our lives as doctors. With so much suffering around us, and often so little we can do about it, how can we get the affirmation we need to carry on? It comes, of course, from the gratitude, understanding, and acceptance of the human beings we try to help. Take that away, and we are finished. So why is it not a central aim of every health system to nurture this exchange of compassion and mutual understanding? Answer: because it is the opposite of commerce.