There was a time in a not so distant future where the separation between a temple and a hospital was not so distinct. Many temples, mosques and churches have provided health care throughout the ages. The word temple comes from the Latin templum ‘open or consecrated space.’ Hospital from mid-13c., “shelter for the needy,” from Old French hospital, ospital “hostel, shelter, lodging” (Modern French hôpital), from Late Latin hospitale “guest-house, inn,” noun use of neuter of Latin adjective hospitalis “of a guest or host.” Temples have long hosted the needy and so it appears that health and care of the soul have been linked for many generations.
I recently graduated from a medical program of sorts and received my doctor of chiropractic degree. I learned amazing things about the body and how to restore health and balance to its separate parts. I was hopeful that I would see the body as a temple by the end of the program, but instead I feel as if I have lost my compassion and empathy for humanity. I feel like I know about conditions and not people. I feel that stark separation between what a temple represents and a hospital represents.
I understand that in a world where everyone worships differently it can be difficult to have a recognition of things that cannot be explained easily by science. We must focus on what we can know through research so that we have some stability, some tool to measure outcomes and success. Temples do not provide this security. They provide a different security, an ability to make sense of the mystery, of the hardship. They do this in a way that hospitals do not.
From my experience this separation takes place in medical school. This separation of soul and body is taught to those of us in medicine and when we graduate we don’t know how to create a place of worship and healing within our office. We don’t know how to talk about body, mind and spirit because we are not taught that and if anything we are so focused on the body that we have lost sight of the mystery that drew us to medicine in the first place. The awe and wonder at the body’s ability to adapt and perform tasks so incredible that they defy our imagination.
So, what now?
Can we change medicine? The way it is taught. The way in which graduates feel and interact with patients? Unlikely.
Those of us that practice medicine. Can we change ourselves? Practice in the fringes. Practice in a way that will inspire ridicule from the scientific and research driven mainstream that promotes their view of medicine.
Do we leave matters of the heart and the soul up to the priests, poets and philosophers and let them do their job. Just doing enough to help a patient meet their Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so they can benefit from the work of these individuals? I have more questions than answers.
All I know is that there must be a better way. A way that encourages us to heal body, mind and spirit. A way that brings the hospital back inside the temple where it belongs.