Rosh Hashanah 5773: The Role of the Physician

By | September 21, 2012

As I sat in temple I realized that since all healing really comes from him, what is expected from me is simply kindness and respect for his creatures.

I would like to tell you about two disparate events that helped to bring my professional life into sharper focus. The first occurred about a week ago when I was asked to join and in all likelihood chair the Pain and Palliative Care Committee at a large local hospital, because previous members and chairmen had lacked the interest or commitment to make it a strong and important part of the hospital. Most physicians do not like palliative care because depressing and beneath their role as healers. The second event occurred while I was sitting in temple the other day listening to the Unetaneh Tokef prayer in which poet ascribes to God the role of judge in deciding who shall live and who shall die, who by hunger and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague… it became clear to me that all of the care that we physicians give is in fact palliative. If God has established a limit to the days of man on this earth, in essence I can never really save a life, but only forestall death for a time. But as I continued to listen to the prayer I was impressed by what I did not hear ascribed to God the decision of, “who shall suffer and who shall feel relief”. I think that this is because while the question of life and death are in God’s hands the responsibility to relieve pain and allay suffering rests with us. From all of us at Schlesinger Pain Centers, I would like to wish you a happy and healthy New Year.

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