Bioethics Discussion Blog: Poetry in Medicine (2)

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Poetry in Medicine (2)

Continuing on with this thread, I have found two writings related to the use and benefit of poetry in general medicine and psychiatry. With regard primarily to its use in psychiatry read "Poetry as Therapy" by Perie J. Longo, PhD.

In Poetry As Healer, Deborah L. Shelton, covers some of the history and research into the use of poetry as therapy. Also, the experience of Dr.Rafael Campo is quoted as in this excerpt:


"I can't tell you how many times patients have come in and said a poem has changed their understanding of the experience [of their illness]," said Rafael Campo, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center. "Poetry has the power to say that others have been through this, that you can live with it too." As a physician-poet, he understands the importance of that message. For example, "a breast cancer diagnosis is a terrifying experience for many people," said Dr. Campo, who discusses poetry with about a third of his patients. "But here's something -- a poem -- that will give a different perspective on the experience. You're engaging the patient and letting them know you see them as a whole person and not just a lump in a breast."
… Poetry can facilitate effective communication and empathy, said Dr. Campo. And that's an important part of being a good doctor. "Empathic care providers provide the best care to patients, and poetry is a useful means for exploring empathy and forming those connections with patients," he said.


Thinking about all this, I wrote the following poem. Maybe it will be therapeutic to someone.


Woeful Toeful

There once was a man who'd shout
"I have this God-awful gout!"
His Doc wrote this rhyme,
That he repeated time after time,
And his gout just faded out, faded out.


Anyone want to try to write another poem? ..Maurice.

9 Comments:

At Tuesday, June 21, 2005 7:30:00 PM, Blogger Alyssa said...

Mary's stress was making her ill.
She said, "Doc, I need just one pill."
He said, "No, get a dog
Or start keeping a blog!
Before we put drugs on your bill."

 
At Tuesday, June 21, 2005 10:25:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

Alyssa, I would strongly recommend that Mary consider the dog and forget the blog. I was warned by reading stories of bloggers who became super-stressed maintaining their blogs. I took on the task of maintaining this blog almost a year ago with trepidation and I am still watchful. But thanks for the poem. In these days of hefty drug prices, keeping and caring for a dog may be much cheaper and more rewarding. ..Maurice.

 
At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 4:38:00 PM, Blogger Alyssa said...

There is a Los Angeles man named Steve Schalchlin who was a painist before he contacted AIDS. He was dying of AIDS in 1996 and it seemed that there was no hope for his survival. He began keeping an online diary (his "deathwatch"). His partner convinced him that he should write a song (to get music back into his life) and call it "Save Me a Seat." With his renewed sense in writing/singing and a feeling of purpose, Steve made a remarkable recovery.

He has since written many songs and his play The Big Voice is now playing in Los Angeles. I saw one of his performances several years ago and his story of the power of his music/writing therapy continues to inspire me.

In an medical system that is driven by technology, it is sometimes easy to overlook the non-medical aspects of care. I am pleased to see that more and more hospitals have branched out their view of care by incorporating pet programs and music therapy programs, among others.

Alyssa

 
At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 7:29:00 PM, Blogger Maurice Bernstein, M.D. said...

For those interested in music therapy, there is the website of the Healing Music Organization. The organization is described as follows: "The Healing Music Organization (HMO) provides information, resources, tools, and a forum for dialogue to people interested in the healing power of sound and music. The Healing Music Organization serves as a bridge between the worlds of spirituality, art, and medicine by honoring the value of each modality. We support the concept of miracles in healing when the body, mind and spirit learn to harmonize together and resonate with the vast energy of the universe." Some interesting research results regarding music, sound and vibration are described on the site.

There is no doubt that music plays a major role in our life from iPod, dance parties, concerts and even "elevator music". As with poetry and humor, it is hard to know to what extent these media are truely therapeutic for disease as a part of alternate therapy in the individual patient. But since they all, in a proper titration, often appear to relieve stress, that in itself is a good. ..Maurice.

 
At Thursday, June 23, 2005 12:24:00 PM, Anonymous Bob Koepp said...

Music, poety, dance, close friendships -- all these and many more have a place in helping us to maintain or recover our health. But miracles? I have a few problems here, not the least of which is trying to get clear about just what a miracle is.

For example, the Healing Music Organization that Maurice mentions seems to view miracles as somehow related to what can happen "when the body, mind and spirit learn to harmonize together and resonate with the vast energy of the universe." Let's suppose that such harmonic resonance actually occurs, and actually correlates with healing not otherwise attributable to medical interventions or the natural restorative, regenerative capacities of organisms. Wouldn't the assumed connection to getting into the "universal groove" suggest that there's something wholly natural (i.e., non-miraculous) taking place?

Just wondering.

 
At Thursday, June 23, 2005 5:21:00 PM, Blogger Alyssa said...

The birth of a baby is “wholly natural” but do we think that it is inappropriate for parents to call the new addition their “little miracle”?

In my experience, the feeling that something is miraculous (or not) is entirely up to the individual. The same exact event can be viewed by multiple people: for one: it may be a miracle, for another: serendipity, you: a scientific or natural course of events. I don’t think that we should discount patients, or their families, when they believe a miracle has occurred or are hoping for one to occur. If a person with cancer improves and goes into remission, someone might say that it is thanks to the chemo, radiation, surgery, or some other treatment. For someone else, that can be a miraculous event. A woman was sure she would die, but she didn’t. Maybe she believes God worked through the medicine. Or touched her divinely and healed her. I don’t think that anyone should try to take that from her.

I think that it is more complicated when serious injury and terminal conditions are on the line. Very often in a consultation, after a lengthy discussion regarding why it a certain treatment was no longer helping, a patient’s family member can see that they are losing ground in the fight to “save” the patient, and will look at the physician and say, “But doctor, don’t you believe in miracles?” Almost every doctor I know said, “No.” For many people in the medical community, the word miracle is extremely dangerous. Families sometimes use their hope for a miracle recovery as ammunition to keep a patient on artificial treatments, even when there is insurmountable evidence that their loved one will not survive, will never again regain consciousness, that a limb must be amputated, etc., etc.

In my opinion, discounting a person’s hope for a miracle is an insensitive and unwise move. So what if it is illogical and unreasonable? While illness can be academically internalized by those people on the treatment team, many families feel like they are lost and outnumbered. They are pushed to make life and death decisions that for which they are not prepared. They cannot get their way with an academically fueled battle, so they bring out the irrational “miracle.” I found though that acknowledging their hope helped us make more headway. If you open up the discussion of hope and spirituality then the family can sometimes feel less alienated and angry.

 
At Thursday, June 23, 2005 8:28:00 PM, Anonymous Bob Koepp said...

I certainly didn't intend to suggest that there aren't very many interesting and valuable perspectives from which people can view events. And of course people apply the term 'miracle' to all sorts of events. I'm even quite willing to explore the therapeutic value of harmonic resonances, an idea at least as old as Pythagoras.

But there's also a long and sordid history of miraculous cures and flim flam that plays on the vulnerabilities of sick people. When an organization endorses the "concept of miracles in healing", it is time to be vigilant.

 
At Thursday, June 23, 2005 8:59:00 PM, Blogger Alyssa said...

I agree that the way that HMO characterized their mission seems to play on those vulnerabilities.

 
At Monday, August 20, 2012 8:48:00 PM, Blogger SteveofCaley said...

"Miraculus" is a diminutive of mirus, "wonderful."
It means a little thing to marvel at, with or without preternatural elements.

 

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