Reconciling the scientific principles of medicine with the love essential for meaningful care is not an easy task, but it is one that Gregory L. Fricchione performs masterfully in Compassion and Healing in Medicine and Society.
At the core of this book is a thought-provoking analysis of the relationship between evolutionary science and neuroscience. Fricchione theorizes that the cries for attachment made by seriously ill patients reflect an underlying evolutionary tenet called the separation challenge–attachment solution process. The pleadings of patients, he explains, are verbal expressions of the history of evolution itself. By exploring the roots of a patient’s attachment needs, we come face to face with a critical component of natural selection and the evolutionary process. Medicine engages with the separation challenge–attachment solution process on many levels of scientific knowledge and human meaning and healing.
Fricchione applies these concepts to medical care and encourages physicians to fully understand them so they can better treat their patients. Compassionate humanistic care promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing precisely because it is consonant with how life, the brain, and humanity have evolved. It is therefore not a luxury of modern medical care but an essential part of it.
Fricchione advocates an attachment-based medical system, one in which physicians evaluate stress and resiliency and prescribe an integrative treatment plan for the whole person designed to accentuate the propensity to health. There is a wisdom or perennial philosophy based on compassionate love that, Fricchione stresses, the medical community must take advantage of in designing future health care—and society must appreciate as it faces its separation challenges.
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