Compassion and Medical Practice
Dr. Ernesto Contreras, M.D.
many centuries the practice of medicine was aimed at taking care
of the whole individual. It was characterized by compassion, sympathy,
and love toward the sufferer. But in this century, that practice
had gradually been transformed into an impersonal, cold, scientific
discipline in which the patient has little voice, and is expected
to submit unquestioningly to the doctor's authority. This unfortunate
change has been the result of assigning too much importance to
scientific knowledge and experimental methods which consider the
human body purely as a complex machine that has been repaired
by means of advanced technology.
the start of the century, science virtually declared war on the
employment of medicine of spiritual laws and values. Left brain
came to dominate right brain; cold knowledge pushed out compassion
and love. When the brilliant French astronomer La Place, who published
Celestial Mechanics in 1799, was asked by Napoleon why
he did not dedicate a word to the creator of the heavens he had
so elegantly described, the scientist answered: "Sire, my
science is not based on hypothesis."
concept that science has nothing at all to do with God has done
much to delay real progress in human knowledge.
moment a young student begins his studies in medical school, of
textbooks and lectures begin the process of brain washing him
into the supremacy of basic science over spiritual values in his
future career. When he graduates as a doctor, he is full of the
arrogant conviction that he knows a great deal. If he manages
to become a specialist, he is molded into a proud, self-sufficient
"professional" He is convinced that with science alone
he is capable of solving all the problems of human suffering;
that to treat a case of typhoid fever, meningitis or cancer he
does not need God's assistance. Before the patient he must appear
in unquestioning command. He believes it "unprofessional"
to show emotion, which is equated with weakness. Even doctors
who remain committed to spiritual values in their personal lives
often start to behave as though they are agnostics the minute
they step into the consulting room.
tender compassionate heart of the young healer is thus transformed
into the cold and insensitive heart of the man of science. This
is even more evident in the new generations of oncologists. They
are impersonal and removed - even cruel - when the verdict of
cancer, with its terrifying future, is handed down to the patient.
They even dare to give dates when the patient is expected to die!
This attitude has stricken the lives of countless cancer patients,
and generally retarded progress in the treatment of cancer.
experiences at Centro Medico and Hospital del Mar for the past
23 years lead me to believe that perhaps 25% of cancer patients
who die prematurely because of aggressive cancers could live longer,
happier lives simply by receiving more personal care, developing
better communication with their doctors, and even, perhaps, learning
how to love them. How fresh and timely sounds the voice of Ezekiel,
the prophet of God, transmitting the gracious promise of his Sovereign
Lord to His people: "I will give you a new heart and put
a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone
and given you a heart of flesh." (1)
doctor who applies for a full-time position in one of our institutions
must be willing to experience this change in his or her heart:
we feel the value of a sensitive, compassionate and loving physician
cannot be overestimated. We consider it vital that our staff have
a practical, living experience of two basic laws:
The Golden Rule: Do to your patient as you would do to yourself.
- The Second Commandment: love your patient as yourself.
our institutions we practice medicine with the mind and with the
heart; science and art. We use all that science offers, but we
know we must use our artistic abilities to make a good diagnosis,
to establish the best treatment, and, of no less importance, to
create good rapport with patients and inspire in them confidence,
faith, hope and a positive attitude.
change the heart of stone to a heart of flesh also implies that
we have to go back to the healers' underlying assumptions about
the nature of the human being. Man is not just a highly evolved
animal composed merely of a body and a limited mind. Man is of
a different order of creation, with an enormous unexplored mental
capacity and a spirit. He is an indivisible trinity, and whatever
affects his body will necessarily disturb his mind and his spirit.
For many years doctors,, especially in chronic diseases, have
dedicated all their efforts to treating the physical aspect, artificially
leaving aside the other areas. This has been a great mistake that
has delayed progress, especially in cancer.
negative result of the materialistic practice of medicine is the
false concept that cancer is initially a local disease that only
requires local treatments to be cured, such as surgery and radiation.
Cancer, no matter how early it is detected, always will affect
the mind and the spirit. In many instances, the real disease starts
in those areas and later on will manifest as a physical illness.
Thus, cancer should always be considered as a systemic problem
in order to establish the proper therapies.
types of treatment prescribed have also been greatly influenced
by the purely scientific and materialistic practice of medicine.
In the case of cancer, the degree of aggressiveness the therapies
have reached is almost unbelievable - in surgery, the hemicorporectomies
and supermasectomies; in radiation therapy, the total body irradiation
and massive short term programs; in chemotherapy, the protocols
of four or five extremely toxic chemicals. Each of these can produce
some good immediate results, but very frequently the price the
patient pays as a human being is simply too high. Even in the
best hands there is always a risk of death or permanent side effects
(iatrongenia), that could result in a very miserable life.
basic and long-standing mistake made in conventional treatments
is that practically all the efforts of the doctor are directed
toward destroying or eliminating the malignant cells - a disease-driven
model of medicine. And as the aggressive procedures are not selective,
they also destroy many healthy cells and damage the patient's
immune system. So, when they cancer cells that have survived the
initial attack get organized again and produce a relapse, the
body is in a very poor condition to fight back.
programs we have developed, besides being substantially less aggressive,
give major emphasis to rebuilding the immune system. This is accomplished
by means of detoxification, diet, vitamins and other immunostimulants
which must include spiritual therapy and psychotherapy. The more
attention we give to the latter aspects, we have discovered, the
better the chance of effective restoration of the immune system.
philosophy is not based on hypothetical or purely mystical ideas.
It is a realistic approach that is proving to be extremely helpful.
Our patients enjoy a much better quality of life than under conventional
treatment routines, and, frequently, remarkably long survival
a recent article a Canadian oncologist (2) expresses the thesis
that serious, ethical doctors must exercise their profession based
on the "biomedical model" which is considered by him
to be the only one which scientifically explains the cause and
natural history of cancer. The "common sense" model
is for ignorant people of quacks.
facts, however, show that by sticking to this "biomedical
model," oncologists have made little or no progress. This
is the conclusion reached by two reputable professors at the Harvard
School of Public Health. They reviewed thousands of charts from
1950 through 1982, and, according to that study, the current cancer
treatments should be considered a "qualified failure."
They conclude that "we are losing the war against cancer,"
and that more public funds should be devoted to prevention. (3)
following three case histories are of very seriously and terminally
ill cancer patients who came to us for treatment. All are extremely
well documented according to orthodox criteria.
Case 1 - White female, aged 58. In September 1977 she developed
rapid abdominal distention. A sonogram showed a large mass in
the right ovary; laparotomy on September 29. The surgeon found
an advanced, bilateral ovarian adenocarcinoma with extensive peritoneal
implants. In October a strong chemotherapy program was started.
In March of 1978 it had to be discontinued because of toxic effects.
Then she started metabolic therapy. In late August of the same
year a large recurrent abdominal mass was removed surgically.
She was admitted to our Institution on September 3, 1979 and was
put on a combination program of metabolic therapy, immunotherapy
and mild chemotherapy.
January 1981 there was evidence of more tumor growth in the abdomen
causing blockage of the ureters Her condition was very critical.
On March 25th a right nephrostomy had to be performed just to
make her less uncomfortable. Chemotherapy was discontinued. In
spite of her condition, the patient was willing to keep fighting
and this encouraged us to continue with the metabolic therapy.
By December of the same year she was doing remarkably well in
spite of the fact that the tumor masses kept growing slowly. In
June 1983 she started to show episodes of partial intestinal obstruction,
which gradually got worse and in May 1984 a transverse colostomy
had to be performed. Prognosis was again very poor, but once more
she evidenced great courage.
then, up to February 1987, when she last visited our hospital
as an outpatient, she had been holding up in good condition, remaining
very active, traveling frequently and seemed very well-adjusted
to her ostomies. Her local oncologist can't explain how she is
still living - and happily too! He encourages her to keep taking
the program that has helped so much. He is convinced that her
positive attitude and faith have been the main factors in her
amazing survival. (4)
2 - White female, age 53. For several years she was exposed to
severe emotional stress. During 1981 and 1982 she suffered frequent
spells of diarrhea and cramps which were not helped by the usual
remedies. In early October 1983 she developed acute abdominal
pain and noticed that her urine had a fecal odor. She was hospitalized
and complete studies showed she had a huge carcinoma of the sigmoid
colon. Emergency surgery was performed on October 17 and the surgeon
removed the tumor, but he also found involvement of a loop of
the terminal ileum which was attached to the urinary bladder forming
a fistula, so he removed the affected loop and repaired the bladder.
Her postoperative course was complicated by pulmonary edema and
myocardial infarction. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy were
started in November, but had to be discontinued soon because of
January 9, 1984, she was admitted to our institution in very poor
condition and in a terrible state of depression. Given very little
chance of survival, we put her on our full program of metabolic
therapy, mild chemotherapy (5FU) and a strong program of psychotherapy
and spiritual assistance. To our surprise, she developed a very
positive attitude and started to improve in all aspects. Five
weeks later she was discharged in good condition and went home
very optimistic. By September of the same year she was doing so
well that the mild chemotherapy was discontinued. A CAT scan showed
no evidence of tumors in her abdomen. During 1985 and 1986 she
enjoyed a very normal life. Her last visit with us was on March
4, 1987. She felt so well that she has asked us to close the colostomy
that was done in her first emergency surgery. (5)
3 - White male, age 53. In September, 1986 he began to suffer
from indigestion, excess gas, alarming loss of weight and later,
severe pain in his right hip. He was studied and found to have
very large liver, a right pulmonary nodule, and a lesion in the
lumbar spine. A liver biopsy disclosed a very aggressive metastatic
adenocarcinoma and a bone scan detected metastasis in his fifth
lumbar vertebra. The final diagnosis was primary carcinoma of
the right lung with massive metastases to the liver and to the
firth lumbar vertebra. He soon became bedridden with excruciating
pain and started to deteriorate rapidly. Nothing was offered to
him, being so terminally ill.
He was admitted to Hospital del Mar on November 26, 1986 for final
care. Medically speaking, he could not live more than 4 to 6 weeks,
but the patient and his wife expressed the desire to fight and
the faith that he could still survive longer. Encouraged by such
a positive attitude, we started to treat him. Moderate doses of
radiation therapy were given to the lumbar spine. A special catheter
was inserted in the umbilical vein to administer Laetrile and
some chemotherapy (5FU) directly into the liver. Nothing was done
to the lung.
To our surprise, the pain subsided completely after the second
week and the patient started to improve in a dramatic way. By
Christmas he was ambulatory. The liver scan showed definite regression
of the metastases and the CEA test went down. He started to eat
well and gain weight. On April 30, 1987 a new liver scan showed
75% regression of the metastases and the chest x-ray showed no
tumour in the right lung.
At the present time the patient in excellent clinical condition
and we have started to believe that, as incredible as it might
seem, he could go into complete remission.
Hospital de Mar, Chart CMM-86-27579
speaking, and applying the concept of the bio-medical model so
faithfully espoused by the "accepted" medical establishment,
none of these three cases should have survived long (add the other
two cases or simply their file data? ) None of the three received
miracle drugs to which we might attribute the stabilization or
remission of their condition.
This indicates to me that the turning points in the course of
their conditions came with the special care and support provided
in the emotional and spiritual areas. Biomedical model doctors
may call these anecdotal cases, spontaneous remissions, cases
of the placebo effect, or whatever. What counts is the fact that
the three are alive and well as the present time (May 6, 1987).
ask for a change in the heart of the healer is not a purely hypothetical
or mystical request. It is an urgent need if we really want to
see more effectiveness in the treatment of chronic degenerative
disease, especially cancer.
us pray that in the near future more and more doctors may be willing
to humble themselves, accept their limited knowledge, look for
divine guidance, and permit their hearts of stone to be transformed
into hearts of flesh. Only then may the title "Doctor"
become synonymous with that of "Healer."
M.L. Brigden, M.D. Postgraduate Medicine, January 1987, p. 271
Bailar III and Smith, New England Journal of Medicine, May 8,
1986, 1226 - 1232
Hospital del Mar, Chart CMM-79-17120
Hospital del Mar, Chart CMM - 81 - 20694.
Hospital del Mar, Chart CMM - 86 - 27579.
Contreras R., M.D. is a graduate of University of Mexico (BS.
1932, M.D. 1939.) He is the founder, director and medical oncologist
of Dell mar Medical Center and Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico (founded
1963). He has been developing cancer prevention programs thorough
the use of metabolic therapy and non-toxic anti-tumor agents since
1965. He is a member of a number o medical associations and author
of numerous articles for medical publications. He has a wife,
Rita, 6 children and 15 grandchildren and is very active in the
Mexican Methodist Church.
The Heart of the Healer With Prince Charles, Norman Cousins, Richard
Moss, Bernie Siegel & Others.
Edited by Dawson Church & Dr. Alan Sherr Aslan Publishing
New York, New York Mickleton, England 1987 ISBN: 0-944031-12-9