Cassell's Misunderstood The Nature Of Suffering

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Eric Cassell argues that physicians have misunderstood the nature of suffering. This is owing largely to the mind-body dualism first introduced by the philosopher Rene Descartes. Physicians focus on the restoration of the body at the complete neglect of the non-body make-up of the human. Cassell argues that this has led to medical treatment actually increasing a patient’s suffering. Opposed to the generally accepted four goals of medicine; prevention, relief, care of ill and avoidance of premature death, Cassell argues that the fundamental purpose of medicine is the relief of suffering. He argues that medicine’s job is to make the person better, however, in order to make the person better, medicine needs to treat the patient and not the disease/sickness. …show more content…
Being a patient means that a person’s health is afflicted and is somewhat beyond the control of the patient seeking help from medicine. Cassell contradicts scholars that interpret this as a loss of autonomy and rather concludes that it is the patient that knows and experiences the suffering and therefore is entitled to express concerns and participate fully in whatever treatment. The physician’s job is to treat the patient and not the disease. However, this creates problems for physicians as in the case of the sculptor, the focus is the cancer and not the mental and social embarrassments associated with the treatment regime. The goal of the physicians, in this case, is to prevent the death of the patient- the avoidance of a premature death. The other things that caused the woman to suffer are just side effects of the main goal of the prevention of death. This clashes with Cassell’s idea of the goal of medicine, which is to prevent suffering. Since for Cassell, it is only the patient that can know whether he or she is suffering, at no point does the patient loses personhood, that is, their autonomy; and thus, physicians ought to be aiming at preventing the suffering of the person, even at the expense of a formulated structured way of treating the disease. However, this approach raises questions, such as, what are the moral limits of physicians doing what they decide is best for the patient? And the …show more content…
Cassell seems to agree that because of cognitive impairment resulting from the sickness, the patient is not in full control. With the uncertainties that come with being a patient, it is difficult to accept that a patient would be able objectively to process information given to them by the physician. Also, it is not practical to expect a physician to provide a patient with the vast amount of information for a particular disease, which begs the question of how a physician ought to judge what a patient should know, and what is the moral source of the doctor’s authority to without information? Take for example the case of Ryan an elderly man who frequently visits his physician and suffers from various diseases over the years. He complains that on this current visit the physician has not sent him to do any of the expected tests and is furious because he was expecting to do these tests to know for sure what was happening this time around. However, he is shocked by the response of his physician, who recommends that no test be done on this visit as there is no indication of any problems needing visits to the specialist. He further suggests that there was no need to continue with certain medication or visits, and in fact, suggest that Ryan considers making some changes in his lifestyle. Ryan is

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