Every month, when I read the PRIME editorial, I am challenged and, occasionally, disheartened. How can I think about teaching Christ-like medicine when I fail every day to achieve that myself? I find myself remembering the patient who was disappointed with me because I advised on the phone rather than visit – and later realised a visit would have been better. Then there is the man whose cancer I did not suspect at his first attendance. He is angry with me.
Jesus said ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ Matt. 5 v 48. So, is a perfect doctor one who never makes mistakes, never disappoints – as well as being caring and compassionate? If so, I had better give up now – or stop reading the PRIME editorials!
No, it is more complex, I believe. No person other than Jesus is perfect in the sense of being without sin, but we are called to care deeply for our patients. That will, of course, involve me applying all my knowledge, wisdom and skills to help them, but I will still disappoint (even Jesus didn’t please all the people) and I will still make mistakes.
In Luke chapter 10, when Jesus sent out the 70, He gave a list of instructions. These included staying in a home, sharing the food offered – and only later healing the sick. The Kingdom of God is about relationship and I suspect Jesus is much more interested in how I relate to the disappointed, angry, grieving, complaining patient than the rights and wrongs of the medical decision.
If I can say ‘sorry’ and mean it, rather than self-justify, which might make me feel better but will not help the hurting patient at all; if I can pray and speak blessing onto the angry complainer and keep on caring for them, then maybe I am closer to what Jesus meant.
Many thanks to Marian Langsford GP this this month’s submission.