Humanist Jennifer Hancock

June 7, 2014 

I almost died a couple of months ago.

My gallbladder, without giving me so much as a twinge of warning, had somehow died and turned gangrenous.

Fortunately, at that point, I started having pain and was admitted to the hospital, where they figured out what was wrong and fixed it.

I'm so very happy to be alive.

If I lived in an area without hospitals, I would have died.

If I lived in a time that didn't have CT scan technology, I probably would have died. CT scans allowed my doctors to figure out exactly what was wrong with me before they operated.

They were able to use targeted laparoscopy instead of just cutting me open, poking around and hoping for the best.

All the technologies and improvements in medicine over the past 500 years have been made possible by people deciding that not only do medical problems have a natural physiological basis, as opposed to a supernatural psychic basis, but also deciding there is a better way to treat people.

This has been the influence of Humanism in medicine.

We don't have to accept the status quo if the status quo involves unnecessary suffering and death. We have the intelligence to figure it out and fix it.

The other thing this experience taught me was just how effective the Humanism in medicine movement has been. I'm sure my doctor and most of my nurses are people of faith, but that doesn't matter, because they all practiced their medicine humanistically.

In addition to treating me with the latest technology, they also treated me as fully human.

My experience during this hospital stay was completely different from my last stay a decade ago at the same hospital.

This time I was treated as fully human by every single member of the staff. They didn't just care for my wounds. They cared for me as a person.

In addition to giving me medicine, they encouraged me to get better, sympathized and gave me hugs when I cried, and they cheered me on as I walked around my floor so I could leave and go home to my family. They all seemed to understand my mental health was just as critical to my recovery as my physical health.

And this is the true impact of the Humanism in medicine movement. Treat the whole human and not just the symptoms.

So kudos to Manatee Memorial Hospital for all improvements you have made and to the wonderful caring staff you employ. And a big shout out to my doctors, too. You know who you are. Your sense of humor and skill saved my life and for that I am eternally grateful.

Jennifer Hancock, a Humanist educator is the author of several books. Find her on the web at and on twitter@jenthehumanist

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