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2018/02/12
Words Do Matter: A Reminder to Practice Empathy

A Surgeon Tells His Own Personal Story From the Receiving Side Rather Than the Treating Side

Montreal, February 8, 2018 – In the March issue of Diseases of the Colon & Rectum, Philip Gordon MD, former Director, Division of Colorectal Surgery, Jewish General Hospital and McGill University and a past president of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and author of one of the field’s major textbooks, describes his personal experiences on the “receiving” end of chemotherapy. This is in contrast to dispensing advice to colorectal cancer patients on whether or not to pursue chemotherapy, something he had done for most of his career as a colon and rectal surgeon.

In a very poignant “Viewpoint,” Dr. Gordon describes the complications of chemotherapy and how they affect the normal activities of daily living. He dispenses sage advice about how to minimize these complications. When asked why he wrote this “Viewpoint,” Dr. Gordon stated “My main reason for embarking on this article was to encourage physicians to better acquaint themselves with the agents being used so that they can better inform their patients on what to expect. Physicians should provide hope without being unrealistic.” While physicians often don’t make the best patients, Dr. Gordon’s experience provides valuable insights into issues our patients must face on a regular basis.

Dr. Gordon further noted: "During my years in practice, I placed many patients on protocols. I spoke to the patient, but in retrospect, I did not do a very good job. This was not because I had no compassion for the patient because I did. This was not because I was rushing off to the next patient because I wasn’t. This was not because I was uncomfortable with the disease because I wasn’t. This was simply because I was not in their shoes, and the only person who can understand what the side effects are is the person who experiences them. The admonition to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes means you must understand his or her experiences, challenges, and thought processes. In effect, it is a reminder to practice empathy."


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