Medicine: Idealism vs Realism
-Written by Rahul Mody
The concepts of idealism and realism seem worlds apart. On one side, you have someone trying to achieve perfectionism. Someone who expects nothing but the best in return. It is a sort of goal or dream that doesn’t account for human errors or emotions. While on the other side, is a more down to earth concept. A group of people who set limits to their belief and understand limitations and boundaries. However, with medicine in the spotlight, the question still arises. Why are human physicians expected to be idealistic in a realistic world?
Medicine, since time immemorial, has always been kept to some of the highest standards. And for good reason as well. After all, we’re dealing with human lives here. But there comes a point where limits to capabilities come into question. Are doctors not entitled to making a wrong decision? Are doctors not entitled to making a mistake? As a physician, you undergo rigorous education and training in order to have complete knowledge in the field that you will practice. However, there comes a time where even the best of the best can’t meet expectations or must encounter situations that they have never seen before. At such times, is it fair for them to be bombarded with human rights issues and lawsuits? In an ideal world, doctors are ideal beings. But in an ideal world would sickness even exist? When you are bound by earth-like realism then why does that realism not extend to all professions and beings. Physicians are humans too and their mistakes shouldn’t always be held under scrutiny. Here, the worldview’s of idealism and realism demonstrate a sort of clash and the field of medicine can’t help but face the brunt of such a powerful battle.
Let’s focus more on the idealistic side of things. Let’s put realistic limitations to idealistic concepts. The world can never be “ideal”. World peace can never exist. A world without sickness and poverty can never exist. These are concepts deep rooted into society. And to ever achieve a world without these evils is a topic of discussion for another day (text me for fun debate :p). Sticking to just medicine, let’s say people still get sick in an ideal world. How can we make hospitalisation and medical care as a whole closer to the concept of idealism? Robots and AI? Medicine is more than just a field of “cure, next”. Medicine is a field based on human emotion. Something a robot or AI could never understand (at least for now). People don’t come to doctors just for a cure to their illness. Sometimes people come to doctors for reassurance, for a knowledgable and respectable conversation, for empathy and care. How can human emotions play a role in the concept of idealism? Idealism is based on highest standards, highest possible care, zero mistakes, zero excuses. And with human emotions in the picture, there’s no space for accounting for errors. Idealism is more a concept that must be chased that can never be achieved. For if we chase idealism, we can better our systems and care but with a a more realistic approach to idealism, doctors can remove the worry of having to face the brunt of media and lawsuits when they make mistakes out of their control or understanding. This would not only lead to better and more holistic care but would also ultimately increase the number of people trying to apply for medicine-related professions.
Ultimately, this post is not to justify mistakes in the medical field. Doctors should and will forever be held to a higher standard as healthcare is not a menial issue in society. And this is well justified too. By holding healthcare professionals to a higher standard we improve the quality of healthcare, the quality of education, and overall standard of living. But, at the same time, we also increase the amount of stress in the occupation. As doctors always have to tip toe on a thin thread of decision making in order to ensure they don’t make a wrong decision and potentially lose their medical license or reputation. A fine line lies between idealism and realism in medicine and understanding that physicians are human too must be instilled into the mind of every person who seeks consultation. As H.L. Mencken, famous American journalist, once said, “An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that is makes better soup.”