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Don’t read the label

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 06 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1092

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What We Need is Competent Compassion

This was a timely and welcome article on a subject that is very close
to me as a substance misuse specialist.

I often feel that I may be the first person in any sort of authority
who has actually listened to the patient and taken some time to try and
understand where they are coming from - and "any sort of authority"
includes any parental figures as well.

There is always a reason why people behave the way they do - and if
we bother to listen and ask enough, it will usually become evident. When
we come to that point - where we get a flavour of someones really dificult
life circumstances often from childhood and compounded over the years -
then only the most hard hearted doctor can fail to be moved.

By all means judge the actions - but it is not our place to condemn
the person.

I believe we should be aiming for "Competent Compassion" in our
practice. If we are competent without being compassionate or compassionate
without being competent, then we fail our patient either way.

The author of the article stated about their brother: "he was lifted
and sustained by a positive consultation for weeks". This is so important
- the doctor as a drug is a well known paradigm.

Let us not withold this most important part of treatment from those
who need it most.

Dr Joss Bray

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 August 2008
Joss Bray
Substance Misuse Specialist