The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine

The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine

Eric J. Cassell

Print publication date: 2011

ISBN: 9780195156164

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract

This is a revised and expanded edition of a classic in palliative medicine, originally published in 1991, with three added chapters and a new preface summarizing our progress in the area of pain management. The obligation of physicians to relieve human suffering stretches back into antiquity. But what exactly, is suffering? One patient with cancer of the stomach, from which he knew he would shortly die, said he was not suffering. Another, someone who had been operated on for a minor problem—in little pain and not seemingly distressed—said that even coming into the hospital had been a source of pain and suffering. With such varied responses to the problem of suffering, inevitable questions arise. Is it the doctor's responsibility to treat the disease or the patient? And what is the relationship between suffering and the goals of medicine? According to the author of this book, these are crucial questions, but ones that have unfortunately remained only queries void of adequate solutions. It is time for the sick person, the author believes, to be not merely an important concern for physicians but the central focus of medicine. With this in mind, he argues for an understanding of what changes should be made in order to successfully treat the sick while alleviating suffering, and how to actually go about making these changes with the methods and training techniques firmly rooted in the doctor's relationship with the patient.