Ruth Wolf

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1 Scopus citations


The medical approach as summarized by Leibowitz--"We must treat the person, not just the disease"--highlights the importance of treating the sick person and not only the illness' pathology. This approach calls for healing not only the physical side, but also--and mainly--the mental aspect of the patient. One of the goals of this article is to turn physicians' attention towards the compassion necessary in treating a person with a severe or chronic illness, or a person who is dying--precisely because sometimes there is no medical cure for the physical state of such a patient. Therefore, physicians' attention does need to be directed to providing emotional assistance to such a patient. Sometimes, the emotional strength the patient draws from the medical team that is treating him can change his view of, and approach to, the illness, and can enable his body to muster the emotional strength necessary to deal with his situation. Buddhism's approach enables the sick patient to experience his illness in a different way, by making peace with one's situation and, sometimes, even viewing the situation differently--viewing the illness as a type of renewal. Buddhism, therefore, enables a sick person to choose a different point of view when his energy is exhausted and he loses hope, providing quality of life to patients. In such a situation, a sick person finds emotional strength in the knowledge that the end of his life is actually a renewal somewhere else. The limited life expectancy of the terminally ill patient demands that he be able to spend his time with minimal concerns and worries, and does not leave much time for treating the emotional side--the patient's fear. In light of this fact, the patient's ability to look ahead and grasp at hope is the most important issue. As much as possible, this is accomplished in an atmosphere of acceptance and with the absence, or reduction, of fear. The freedom to decide for oneself how to behave, according to one's own approach, is what makes it possible for the sick individual to feel empowered, and is liable to encourage the patient to adopt a different point of view. The Buddhist approach recommends replacing the helplessness that usually accompanies the predicament of terminally ill patients with acceptance of responsibility for their behavior in any given situation; this is Buddhism's main contribution to both physicians and patients alike.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalMedicine and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


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