Hospital Notes 20

You may remember that in some earlier ‘Hospital Notes’ I described the actions of a lady who took my hand and kissed it. Well it happened again recently, but this time, by a distressed elderly gentleman. In each case I responded by kissing the patient lightly on the forehead.

Recently I was given a newspaper cutting entitled…

“We doctors should not be afraid to hug a patient”

…from which I quote…

“A few weeks ago I hugged my patient. He had just been diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer. Two weeks later, his family came in to tell me he had passed away but wanted me to know how much my hug meant to him. How to respond in difficult, emotionally charged situations is challenging, but I have developed my own style of communication that is bespoke to every patient as no two consultations are ever the same. People can sense what is genuine and what is not. The patient who died of bowel cancer really touched my heart. Seeing this elderly broken man before me, I had no words. When his family came to see me they laughed because the hug was all he talked about in his final days. A doctor had never even touched his hand, but I had hugged him. He felt special. Human touch has its place and must never be forgotten”.

The sentiments expressed here reinforce my own belief that touch is both vital and powerful and should not be shied away from even in these days of political correctness and potential unfounded accusation.

Indeed, as I offer to pray with patients I always move a hand slightly towards them and cannot remember the last time they didn’t immediately stretch out theirs to take hold of mine.  The power of appropriate touch cannot be over emphasised.

Dave Rowlands