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Editor's Commentary on "The Spectacle of Suffering"

 , June 07, 2020

An inextricable part of medical training derives from the observation and assessment of people who are experiencing illness or disease; we call them “patients.” As medical students, residents, and fellows, those under supervision as early trainees under the apprenticeship of attending physicians, patients are the sine qua non for the education of the science of medicine beyond the textbook and the canvases for the development of the art of medicine. The hardest and most difficult “cases” as they are called in the jargon of the medical community are demonstrated among often multiple medical teams weighing in. This re-demonstration occurs even in sometimes futile situations in which modern medicine might not have the answers.


            Reimagined in another light, medical education is largely predicated on observing the suffering of others for our own benefit.


This perspective contrasts sharply with the idealized, humanistic, and compassionate nature of the career paths we chose to pursue in medicine. We learn from the institutionalized objectification and exhibition of a person who is ill or sick. Benjamin Frush, in his piece “The Spectacle of Suffering,” addresses this uncomfortable recognition with particular attention to a pediatric population, who is less able that adults to limit the number of learners in a room or to express their desires clearly and firmly. I wish to thank the author for his willingness to share his story and thoughts so to perhaps reclaim and reaffirm in the medical community the way in which we should approach our patients in humble recognition of their very humanity.

Herbert Rosenbaum