In thinking about the substance of the invitation, I returned to a theme which has been a much-discussed topic lately. Are patients consumers?
Some people try to say yes to that question out of a commendable instinct. If we sell cars, or even more if we make them, we want to make sure that the person who pays money for them gets the absolute best automobile possible. It's common sense, and ethical practice: producing well-made goods can help society and the individual. A consumer is worthy of respect for that reason, since she participates in an age-old relation.
But a patient is something different. Etymologically, a patient is a suffering person. Take away the suffering for a moment: a patient is a person, full stop Every person, no matter who they are, experiences suffering.
Pain involves the whole person; suffering threatens the very foundations of our selves. Being with the patient - the suffering person - at that moment is radical empathy, sacrificing some of the surety of our existence to make sure someone can live in wholeness.
In health care, in redressing health, we are trying to do the opposite of consume. We are attempting to achieve wholeness in the midst of suffering.
So, no. We don't want consumption. We want restoration. For lack of a better word: healing is what we seek.