I likewise recall, and without nostalgic glow, the less technologically sophisticated but generally more humane doctors of my childhood and youth–doctors with the legendary “bedside manner.” Those nonstop doctors were man and women who, in their willingness to visit patients’ homes, had agreed to expose themselves to the context of patients’ lives–the rooms they lived their precious lives in, the beds in which they’d expressed their love and bred their children. In my experience, those doctors never indulged in false consolation (they had after all few effective drugs); but the depth of understanding that they gained by submitting themselves to the lives of their patients–as opposed to demanding that their patients come to them, however painfully–gave them a far better chance of meeting the sick as their equals, their human kinsmen, not as victim-supplicants broiled in institutional light of the dehumanizing air of all hospitals known to me.

Reynolds Price in “A Whole New Life

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