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Cutting Remarks: Maimonides, the Great Healer
Reflecting on the life of a man devoted to his patients' well-being.
John Kelly, IV
Publish Date: June 2, 2016   |  Tags:   Opinion

As the Jewish feast of Passover comes to a close, I am reminded of the life of Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides. In this day and age of compliance, regulation, power struggles and insurance hassles, it is refreshing to reflect upon the life of a man whose singular purpose was the well-being of his patients.

Maimonides was a 12th Century medieval Sephardic Torah scholar and physician. While a venerated Jewish theologian, he gained widespread acclaim as a healer and was personal physician to royal families. A study of his vocation as a physician reveals that he was a healer in every sense of the word.

A deeply spiritual man, his principles on caring for the sick arguably form the core of what is now considered "patient-centered care." Maimonides regarded health care as the most noble of vocations and advocated a selfless life of service with the well-being of the patient of foremost importance. In the holy Prayer of Maimonides it is written: "May no strange thoughts divert my attention at the bedside of the sick, or disturb my mind in its silent labors, for great and sacred are the thoughtful deliberations required to preserve the lives and health of Thy creatures."

Oath of Maimonides
A spirit of giving permeated Maimonides's every action in caring for the sick. His physician oath describes the virtues of other centeredness, continuing education and quest for knowledge.

"The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all time; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children. May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.

' ' '

Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of man can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements. Today he can discover his errors of yesterday and tomorrow he can obtain a new light on what he thinks himself sure of today.

' ' '

Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling."

Quest for improvement
Maimonides distilled the act of healing to its very essence — love for the art of healing and love for the patient. For Maimonides, there simply was no room for pursuit of fame or riches. Thirst for excessive profit and renown were "enemies of truth and of love for mankind." He didn't judge. Any undesirable trait of any patient was merely a manifestation of pain. There was no room for egoic battles between healthcare team members of "who is right or wrong" in Maimonides's mind. Patient well-being received primacy over all else.

We could live more peaceful and meaningful lives if we simplified our vocation and incorporated the timeless principles of Maimonides — gratitude for the privilege of healing, other centeredness and constant quest for knowledge. OSM