The Art of Medicine
Dr. Peter Maguire DVM, MS
Board Certified Vet Specialist Neurology/Neurosurgery
When I published my first website introducing my small independent neurology practice, I included a section entitled “Testimonials”; a collection of snippets from cards and messages I have received from pet owners over the years. Some of these messages were from pet owners whose pets had died or were euthanized while in my care. When my father first visited the website and read through the testimonials, he emailed me with some advice. “Maybe you shouldn’t include the notes from people whose pets didn’t make it”…as if death or euthanasia represented some medical failing on my part. Maybe he was joking. It wasn’t clear to me if he was kidding, or it was constructive criticism.
In retrospect, some of my closest and most memorable Veterinarian-Client relationships have developed from, as my father might view it, the ‘failings’. Even when I’ve done everything by the book, followed all the medical algorithms to a ‘T’, instituted the latest and greatest treatments; sometimes I still fail. Death happens. It’s as much a part of medicine as diagnosis and treatment. I had 8 years of formal veterinary training. I’ve given educational lectures, read countless scientific articles and textbook chapters from both veterinary and human medicine and published my own research. Early on I believed medicine was a compilation of logic and hard scientific fact, and eventually one could know it all…I just needed to keep reading and cramming it in. I believe now that medicine is as much, perhaps more, an art, as it is a science. There is so much more that we don’t know, than we do. Often, what we believe to be hard truth today, is turned upside down tomorrow; medical ‘fact’ changes. It advances and withdraws like the tides. We do our best…I believe that…but we don’t know it all and probably never will. My “medical expertise” is honed with a combination of knowledge, unbiased research (hopefully), wisdom from experience, and compassion.
Sometimes all the current medical tools and knowledge available to me are still not enough, and as a health care provider I fail to save the patient. I’ve learned that alone does not define the outcome. When I am compassionate. When I demonstrate sincere care. When I support someone through the loss of their beloved pet. When I have tried my hardest on their behalf….that is medicine too. And sometimes for that, I receive the greatest gratitude.