Patient responsibility

Another reason for an increasing dissatisfaction on the part of patients with what they see as an indiscriminate prescribing of drugs by doctors, is the growing realization of the role that the mind plays in health.

Although true psychosomatic disorders are rare, it would appear that a patient’s mental outlook can affect the progress of an illness or disorder. It is a commonplace that skin complaints flare up at the most inconvenient time – an important interview, for example – caused by emotional stress. But, more spectacularly, many cancer patients claim to have beaten their illness simply by determining to do so. And, certainly, there are many reported cases of people still alive years after their doctor had predicted that their cancer would be fatal.

A growing number of medical practitioners now understand how important it is to hand over some responsibility for the prevention, treatment and cure of illness to the patient himself. Cardiac specialists impress on their patients the part lifestyle can play in the control of heart disease. Although drug treatment has made life tolerable for many people suffering from mental illness, the good psychiatrist will always strive to find ways of enabling the patient to help himself rather than make him entire drug dependent. Doctors increasingly seek to involve the patient at all levels. They aim to stop a person surrendering his body and mind to medicine when he visits the doctor, in an attempt to avoid him developing a ‘patient mentality’. Hippocrates realized the importance of this over 2,000 years ago. The problem today, perhaps, is that the overmedication of society can be regarded as symptomatic of a society that is overreli-ant on medicine to cure every small ailment.