This article in October's BC Medical Journal makes several points that I find particularly relevant to today's practice of family medicine.
Dr. Michael Ross states, "7000 years ago, healing was performed by the partnership of the priest and the potion. Then the priest was the more effective of these partners. Now, with the privilege of science, the potion has become the power and the priest has withered to the writer of prescriptions or the performer of a process . . . Human nature, however, has not changed, and the need for that priestly power persists."
I agree wholeheartedly that patients today seek priests, magic and spiritual healing. I believe that this is a key reason that so many people visit naturopaths and other alternative medicine providers. The problem is that while the family physician is in the best position of all to provide comprehensive care of the patient, he is not compensated for it. The Medical Services Plan fee schedule makes care of the whole patient unfeasible.
Some of the best medical care (resulting in the most satisfied patients) is, in my experience, provided at clinics where physicians are paid sessionally rather than fee-for-service. If a patient is in crisis (medical, social, emotional or spiritual), the physician can take the time necessary to provide full care, because she is fairly paid for it. That luxury does not exist in private practice.
I am in the very early stages of planning my eventual return to private practice, which I intend to include a healthy dose of priesthood. Unfortunately, it seems it's going to take an awful lot of creativity and cleverness to make it work.