Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Danielle Ofri's Reflections on Fear Triggered by Illness

Danielle Ofri's recent column on Slate, the online magazine, addresses the topic of fear that results from uncertainty and the risks associated with medical illnesses and procedures, even minor ones. Danielle shares the distress and acute fear she experienced as a mom when her young son required minor ear surgery. Even though, as a physician, she understood that the risk of the procedure was low, she nonetheless imagined the worst and became gripped with raw fear that  didn't abate till her son was fully recovered from his surgery.

Dr. Ofri's distress during that minor ordeal increased her awareness of the needs of her patients and their family for her  support, empathy and compassion during episodes of illness, especially when tough medical decisions need to be made. As Danielle points out, the process of shared decision making requires more than information sharing and collaboration. It also requires eliciting and responding to the emotions that are aroused by uncertainnty and risk. As she she beautifully writes, 
"When I sit with a patient now, deciding on a treatment, I still lay out the risks and benefits as systematically as I can. But then I take a moment to acknowledge the raw fear that cannot be assuaged by even the most convincing clinical data. This conversation can’t eliminate the necessary leap of faith. But at least there is some recognition of the stomach-plummeting sensation that occurs" when a decision has to be made.
Thank, Danielle for your enlightening column! I also highly recommend Dr. Ofri's well written memoirs, including her latest book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine .

No comments:

Post a Comment