Ailing medical profession turns to therapy

Respect for the patient should come ahead of a cure, experts say Keystone

The medical profession in Switzerland is undergoing a thorough examination amid fears that medicine is failing to serve patients.

This content was published on November 1, 2004

Experts say the tradition of focusing on the disease rather than the person needs to change if society is to remain healthy.

The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences says medicine can no longer be content to simply “manage” patients. It has to take a more holistic approach to health, and shift the emphasis from cure to prevention.

The Academy’s views are based on a research project, “The future of medicine in Switzerland”, which has been underway since 1999.

Symptoms of the problems include spiralling health costs and evidence of increasing public disillusionment with traditional medical practices.

The Academy has circulated a 50-page report for consultation among medical authorities.

“The first aim is no longer cure,” said Professor Dieter Bürgin, who led the research, and presented the report in Bern on Monday.

He said medicine needed to broaden its approach by taking account of the physical, social and spiritual needs of patients.

Saving lives

Saving lives has been pushed down the list of priorities, behind preserving health and disease prevention.

The report suggests that medicine should give priority to the well being of patients, in part by preserving human dignity and respecting patients’ right to self-determination.

The issues discussed in the report, and the future of medicine in general, will be examined at a forum on December 16, said Professor Peter Suter, president of the Academy.

Suter added that the training of doctors and other medical professionals in particular had to be adapted.

“But one cannot imagine that it could cost more money. We will have to have the courage to say that one kind of training is more important than another,” Suter commented.

A study carried out by the GfS research institute in 2001 revealed that the Swiss did not wish to give up on modern technology but wanted a quality medical system with a more human side.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences has been studying the fundamental values of medicine, in particular because of a widespread belief that medicine is in a state of crisis.

There are signs of discontent about spiralling costs and a sceptical attitude towards traditional medicine.

Values under study include the respect of human dignity, the respect of the right of self-determination of the patient and the priority given to the patient’s wellbeing.

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