When respect for the dignity of human beings is omitted from medical assessment, medicine ceases to become a science and is in danger of becoming a set of formulas, as arid and unhelpful as spells, curses and other hocus-pocus.
Fred Hollows, Updated Autobiography with Peter Corris
This statement struck a cord with me and I recalled another statement by Hans Eisen and Bernard Mulraney in their survey, Impediments to the Adoption of Modern Quality Management Practices (in Australian Manufacturing Industry) Monash University, 1992, “…an attitudinal change is required for success. This should begin with a reappraisal of the intrinsic worth of the individual at all levels.”
Fred’s work while identifying the urgent need for appropriate Vitamin A capsules to address deficiencies also calls for a better understanding of how people in the affected societies live.
He recalls getting into an argument with a researcher who gained a considerable reputation by showing the dramatic improvement in general health experienced by African children who were fed green, leafy vegetables.
When asked why the mothers hadn’t fed their children in this way the researcher replied that they were too ignorant to do so.
This made Fred angry. People are never, in Fred’s belief, too ignorant to guarantee their own survival. On a little reflection better answers to the question emerge, for example green, leafy vegetables may well have provoked diarrhoea and digestive disorders more threatening than the vitamin deficiency.
A deeper understanding of how people behave in systems begins with respect for the dignity and intrinsic worth of the person.