Monday, March 27, 2017

Empathy & Fragile Lives: NHS & Free Thinking!

When the book by Stephen Westaby turned up for reasons too complex to explain, the Cockcroach Catcher somehow managed to read the most important chapter that was quoted by many reviewers.

When I turned back to the beginning, I have to disagree with Westaby’s proud claim that he lacked empathy from lack of sleep as a Junior Doctor and that was why he became a heart surgeon.

Brought me back to how one could help people who has lost their life saving during the financial crises and became depressed and suicidal. Is empathy going to help? What about someone giving him back all the money he has lost? Would he still kill himself?

Well the “empathy-free” Westaby arrived in Australia for a conference only to receive a call asking him to go back to England as a mother of a 6 month old girl would only have him operate on her daughter to save her life. So Westaby immediately arranged to fly back and planned his operation/s on the long flight back. I call that real "empathy"!

Unfortunately what was planned did not work and the parents were counseled to say farewell. Westaby did not join in with the “empathy” as he did not try to comfort the parents. It was left to the others.

No, he decided to try something that has never been tried. As the parents went in afterwards thinking that they were going to say goodbye, mother felt the girl's feet which was the warmest it has been, she realised that her faith in Westaby was totally justified.

The girl is still alive today. Westaby was threatened with the sack for doing something that has never been done before.

Well, that is my kind of “empathy”!

It was great to see him in person at Sage, Gateshead for the BBC Free Thinking event. The book is for all of you that loved the NHS, the NHS Original, the NHS born in the same month and year Westaby was born. We need to bring it back and we need to let good doctors do what they think is best, even if it is not NICE approved. Free thinking indeed!

Gateshead © Am Ang Zhang 2017

Westaby must have the last words:

Who would be a heart surgeon now? With long, taxing operations, anxious relatives, the nights and weekend on call. Worse still, a health system entrenched in nonsensical bureaucracy with the reward of public exposure for a run of bad luck. Already 60 per cent of our children’s heart surgeons are overseas graduates.

In the final analysis, a profession that dwells upon death is unlikely to prosper – undertakers and the military aside. As Dr Kirklin emphasised, some deaths in cardiac surgery are inevitable. When a surgeon is focused on helping as many patients as his ability will allow, some will die. But we should not accept inconsistent teams, substandard facilities or lack of vital equipment. Otherwise patients die needlessly.

The answer? Bury the blame-and-shame culture and give us the tools to do the job.

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