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Views And Reviews

The dehumanisation of the patient

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l6336 (Published 05 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6336
  1. Abraar Karan, internal medicine resident
  1. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA
  1. abk655{at}mail.harvard.ed
    Follow Abraar on Twitter @AbraarKaran

Abraar Karan considers the implications of healthcare systems that prime doctors to see people as patients

On a warm summer morning in the hospital, “Mr P” sat in the recliner chair in his room, waiting for his medical team. Today was different, however. He was no longer wearing the usual orange hospital socks or teal hospital gown. Today, Mr P had laced up his dusty black sneakers. He had pulled his grey hooded sweatshirt on over a T shirt and jeans. When we arrived, he looked up at us (we were quite surprised—I wondered if he was planning to leave against medical advice) and announced, “I put my own shoes on today, and my jacket. It made me feel just a bit more like me.” Who knew that such a small fix could make such a big difference in the way he felt—and yet, it should have been obvious.

This incident reminded me of a time last year when I saw one of my patients in the hospital lift. She was dressed in a T shirt, shorts, and sunglasses, and we stood next to each another on the way down to the first floor. …

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