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Jane Bates: so much for modern medicine

There is an important distinction between cure and treatment, but some patients just don’t get it, says Jane Bates. 
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There is an important distinction between cure and treatment, but some patients just dont get it, says Jane Bates

Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always, said the illustrious pillar of modern medicine, Hippocrates.

I was recently reminded of the cure sometimes, treat often part when I started to notice something unusual patients confusing treatment with cure.

In these enlightened days, with health information all over the television, internet and newspapers, it is astonishing that people still get confused. But they do.

Information breakdown

Ask a patient if they have high blood pressure, for example, and they say no, yet they are taking hypotensives. Well I did have it but my pills are making me better, they say.

I have to explain, gently, that they are not cured but are being treated, and that there is an important distinction.

Even more

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There is an important distinction between cure and treatment, but some patients just don’t get it, says Jane Bates

‘Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always,’ said the illustrious pillar of modern medicine, Hippocrates.

I was recently reminded of the ‘cure sometimes, treat often’ part when I started to notice something unusual – patients confusing treatment with cure. 

In these enlightened days, with health information all over the television, internet and newspapers, it is astonishing that people still get confused. But they do. 

Information breakdown   

Ask a patient if they have high blood pressure, for example, and they say no, yet they are taking hypotensives. ‘Well I did have it but my pills are making me better,’ they say. 

I have to explain, gently, that they are not cured but are being treated, and that there is an important distinction. 

Even more worrying is that some patients with type 2 diabetes are saying the same thing. They do not seem to grasp that although they are on medication to keep the condition under control, they still have diabetes. 

I have never come across this basic misunderstanding as often as I do now. Some fundamental information is clearly not getting across. 

Shorter conversations 

These conditions are so common and well-documented in the media that perhaps doctors and nurses assume patients understand, when in fact some do not. 

Health professionals are also so time-poor that discussions with patients are increasingly hurried, meaning important issues may not be adequately conveyed. So much for modern medicine. 

As our population grows and pressure on the health service increases, these therapeutic conversations will become shorter and shorter. 

Misapprehensions are bound to result. What would Hippocrates make of it, I wonder? 


About the author 

Jane Bates

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire

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