One religious officer has been making a case for patients to be placed at the centre of treatment of illnesses such as cancer, rather than focusing only on their medical condition.
Chaplain Paul Leacock, who has been working with Cancer Support Services (CSS) for the past four years, says it is critical that the patient’s emotional and psychological wellbeing are also taken care of during and after treatment. “We forget sometimes the person who is on that road, that journey now that causes them to be in need of help and the road ahead of them can be pretty stiff and difficult.
“If we’re going to treat a person, first we need to look at the context of that care. The patient ought to be treated in their full life context, not just what the medical options are,” Leacock said in his address to CSS’ 8th annual conference.
“For example, their emotional status… what about the personal and marital relationships that they have? When a woman says ‘I don’t know if my husband is going to care about me now that I am only going to present one breast to him’, or [when a man says] ‘is my wife going to still find me appealing when I fail to satisfy her fully when she looks at me amorously across the room? Am I still going to be a man to her?’ What about the relationships that are going to now experience a shattering when Daddy is not the superman in the house anymore, or Mummy that holds everything together is suddenly down for the count and all of life is falling apart? What about the work that the person does, their career is on the line? Their vocation is going through the chute? That was their life, they’ve studied all their life, they’ve worked all their life, they’ve attained and achieved a certain status and now that’s in question,” Leacock added.
These are just some of the issues that Pastor Leacock said are critical to effective treatment. Faith, he said, is also an important part of their journey back to good health. “What do they believe about themselves? It is in situations like these that our faith comes into focus. What you believe about yourself, about life, about God, about death, about the hereafter, it comes into effect,” he noted.
At the same time, he also called on the doctors present to adopt a collaborative approach to patient care. “What about partnering with a patient? Do we just have a condescending relationship? ‘I’m the doctor, you’re the patient, I know what’s wrong, this is what you do’. Do we do that? Or do we establish that the patient needs to feel a part of their own treatment?
“Here they are with doctors and nurses, therapists and other medical professionals, some of whom they have never met in their lives, they’re going to be meeting for the first time, and everybody concerned is dealing with them and yet oftentimes they are the object and not the subject… A care plan is implemented and sometimes it’s implemented independent of them or in spite of them.”
Pastor Leacock also suggested that chaplaincy and pastoral care need to be incorporated into overall health care in Barbados as part of a holistic treatment of various illnesses. “There’s this myth that there is a gap between science and faith, which is really not true because everybody is spiritual. And here in Barbados we have not yet developed the interdisciplinary approach to medicine where we bring in spiritual, psychological, social and behavioural skills to help our patients. And I’m suggesting today that the care of people who are ill can best be done by that interdisciplinary means. And we are the change agents that can make it happen,” he said.
Pastor Leacock was delivering a presentation on the topic Beyond the Disease: The Person to an audience that included members of Cancer Support Services, medical doctors and cancer survivors. (MCW)