Something you rarely remember hearing from the past is that a physician had a lousy bedside manner. By bedside manner, we're talking about how physicians talk to patients when giving them any type of health care, from putting a bandage on a finger to telling them they might not have long to live.

One of the problems could be that patient / doctor relationships never have the chance to become as intimate as they did in the past. In the past, physicians might have only had to get to know 100 to 200 people at the most. These days some physicians see that many new people every couple of weeks, and unless someone is really sick, they only have a medical record to go by to remember someone's medical history. I've gone to my physician for 10 years now but he never remembers anything about me.

Another problem is that today's medical schools counsel physicians on the problems associated with getting too close to patients, with the point being that they might not be able to tell a patient the truth when it's necessary because sometimes the truth hurts. In today's world one could call this the "House" theory of medicine: "Do you want someone nice or someone who'll save your life?"

My experience in health care is that sometimes physicians and other hospital staff tend to treat someone with a bit more dispassion until it impacts them personally. If they have to tell you that your child only has a few hours to live, or tell your best friend they have lung cancer, and they know the patient won't react well, it's almost to be expected that they have to learn how to mentally protect themselves. Yet those are the times when physicians will show the most empathy, even if the news might feel like it's been delivered in a blunt manner; there's no easy way to give certain information.

It shouldn't take something critical for health care professionals to exhibit good bedside manners when dealing with patients and their families. Good sense says that being compassionate takes no extra time. It's the humane way to treat others, health care or not, and it certainly can only enhance a physician's reputation when the inevitable comes and someone remembers how well they were treated.

It's what led my mother and I to send a thank you card to the emergency room doctor the day my dad passed away. We tend to remember those that treat us well.