Intended for healthcare professionals

Personal Views Personal views

Living on the edge

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 04 August 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:291

Coping strategies and complementary medicine.

‘Allergy to anecdotes’ as one of my senior colleague put it, is a
good thing for the medical mind. But two pieces, in the same issue of BMJ,
one a book review of a non-medical journalist coming down heavily on the
alternative medicine and another, a personal view of a well qualified
doctor espousing the benefits of complementary medicine, illustrates the
power of anecdotes. (The editorial team is to be congratulated for
this).(1) (2)

These two ‘anecdotes’ illustrate, one aspect of patient care, which
is sadly neglected in care of cancer patients. In the enthusiasm for
patient empowerment, very often patients coping defenses are left
vulnerable. Some cancer patients, like John Diamond, cope by viewing their
illness through the prism of logic and rationalism. Many others cope by
hanging to the twig of hope. (3) Sadly, coping strategies of cancer
patients are not well researched and is likely to remain so.


1. Ferriman A. Book: Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations.BMJ 2001;
323: 288.

2. Baron S. Personal View. Living on the edge. BMJ.2001.323: 291

3. The A, Hak T, Koëter G, van der Wal G. Collusion in doctor-patient
communication about imminent death: an ethnographic study.BMJ 2000; 321:

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 August 2001
Sundar Santhanam
Sp.R clinical oncology
Dept of oncology, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester. LE1 5WW