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How Our States of Mind May Affect Our Diseases

August 17, 1985

I must commend the eminent Norman Cousins for his forthright article (Editorial Pages, July 10), "State of Mind Does Affect State of Health."

Cousins proclaims that the attitude of a patient does indeed make a difference in the treatment of cancer. However, as a professional health practitioner I'd like to amplify that statement. The attitudes of all patients are significant to their state of health and well-being, whether the diagnosis is cancer or any other complex catastrophic disease. The question arises, Who is going to assist the patient with his feelings at this crucial time?

Emotions run rampant when a person is first told of his disease process. Usually the patient is panic-stricken, and subsequently takes refuge in a depressive state. And the family is in a state of shock and denial and can barely cope. The primary physician sees the patient for about 5 to 10 minutes daily. On an out-patient basis, he sees the patient once or twice a week, if that often. The nurses and other medical care givers are woefully understaffed and overburdened and find it difficult to give any meaningful psychosocial intervention. The entire health team, even if well organized to set priorities for patient's needs, is lucky to get its work done in an eight-hour shift.

Where does that spark of hope come from that the patient so desperately needs at this precarious time? Perhaps it is time for the American Medical Assn., hospital administrators, legislators and the entire health-care industry to take stock of this highly volatile issue. It is time to lock hands and hearts and join forces with the total health care team and come up with some answers.

SYLVIA T. JOSEPH RN

North Hollywood

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