Translated by Katja Schütt and Alan Schmukler
Homeopathy is distinguished by its humanist conviction, its desire to understand the patient in her entirety and to respectfully accompany her on the way to healing. This point of view is a clear heritage of Samuel Hahnemann and of course, of Hippocrates of Cos, the Greek physician who, centuries before our era, said: “Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick.”
This sense of proximity and the need to understand human nature in depth means that homeopaths occupy a special place in the lives of their patients. It contrasts with conventional medicine, which has gradually relinquished the role of the family doctor. We have talked about this issue with Dr. Héctor Montfort Cabello, coordinator of the Continuing Medical Education Program of the Higher Institute of Homeopathic Medicine for Teaching and Research (ISMHEI), located in Monterrey, Nuevo León (northern Mexico), who agrees that many homeopathic physicians attend parents, children, grandparents and other members of the same family.
The doctor explains with his normal, calm and affable voice: “Definitely yes, this is sitution or phenomenon that occurs in Mexico. I think that having either a family doctor or the ancient general practitioner (a figure that is almost extinct), who knows the state of health or the reactions to remedies of several members of a family, is a very important condition for patients. This general practitioner can carry out many treatments and simple procedures in the office and, if needed, can and should refer serious cases or those that escape their knowledge and skills to the specialist, always being in the know about the treatment and development of the patient”.
Is it an advantage or a disadvantage that the homeopathic doctor assumes this role? On the one hand, it is clear that he must be prepared and up to date in terms of diagnosis and the sufferings of each age group and gender (children, women, men, older adults), but on the other hand, Dr. Montfort Cabello considers, “knowing the dynamics and relationships in a family gives many advantages, because it facilitates us to know the causes ‘hidden’ by the patient and which have been manifested by other members of his family. Of course, we must do all this while keeping discretion and secrecy because of the patient’s age or dignity, keeping in mind the responsibility for professional confidentiality.”
Commitment and Professionalism
Dr. Héctor Montfort, affiliated with the College of Homeopathic Physicians, Surgeons and Midwives of the State of Nuevo Leon and member of one of the most reputable dynasties of homeopathic physicians in Mexico, explains that not everything is so simple in the care of a family, for example, regarding confidentiality.
“It is easy when treating younger patients, for whom there is an obligation to make ‘the case’ known to parents, guardians or older siblings. However, for young patients who are already older, the decision is more difficult, because we have the obligation to maintain the patient’s privacy. Personally, what has worked for me is to convince the young person to trust and talk with their parents or grandparents about their situation, because it is difficult to find the help and understanding that your family can provide from anyone else.
Obviously, sometimes the homeopathic physician has to face situations strongly charged with emotion, such as in addictions, alcoholism, eating disorders or severe psychological problems, so he should be prepared for these cases and, if necessary, attend to more than one member of the family due to the complex and close relationships that can be generated within the so-called “cell of the society”.
In this regard, Dr. Montfort Cabello considers it to be convenient to undertake measures in a collaborative manner. “Undoubtedly, the homeopathic, family or internist doctor should support and obtain the participation of psychologists, psychiatrists or addiction rehabilitation centers for his patients. In the case of depressive patients, with suicidal or self-harm tendencies, the homeopathic prescription must go hand in hand with the close monitoring by family members and the non-suspension of allopathic drugs, until a significant improvement of the aforementioned risk is achieved.”
Another situation that occurs in the consultation is that of patients who have a relative who is skeptical of homeopathy and tries to interfere with the treatment. “It is not very frequent, but it is real and uncomfortable for the patient and the physician. In case of such a situation, and if the person is not very convinced of the usefulness of homeopathy or does not have the authority to decide, I tell him not to come into conflict with his family members and suspend the homeopathic treatment. The patient’s illness is already enough of a problem so he shoulnd’t undertake the exhaustive attempt of convincing family members who oppose homeopathy.”
Proximity is a Virtue
Searching for the wellbeing of human beings through homeopathic practice raises all kinds of scenarios in the consultation, so we asked Dr. Héctor Montfort if it is advisable to treat different members of a family group simultaneously.
“Of course there is the case of recommending preventive or corrective treatment to more than one member of the family! In Northern Mexico we just had the seasonal flu epidemic and during the last time we had a prevalence of multiple cases in the same family, from October 2017 until the end of March 2018. This also applies, for example, in cases of pediculosis, because the insects that cause this infestation parasitize during summers and afflict several members of the same household.”
To end the conversation, we wanted to know Dr. Montfort’s opinion regarding the benefit or interferences gained from diagnosis and treatment when there is a close or long relationship between the homeopathic physician and a family. “In most cases it helps us to know patients for several years, their reactions to treatment and their emotional or affective sphere, among other factors. The exception to this occurs in very apprehensive people who frequently attend the consultation for vague and temporary discomfort, and who do not allow time to see response to treatment.”
Thus, the noted physician doesn’t see any impediment even when creating bonds of friendship. “Making a friend at any time of life is a joyful situation, and becoming worthy of that distinction by means of a patient or a whole family speaks in favor of the physician. However, it must be said that if this occurs in the environment of the doctor-patient relationship, it is necessary that the physician, on the one hand, does not rely on his preliminary diagnoses and, on the other hand, is extremely precautious with his behavior, language, etc., so as not to harm a path gained with mutual achievements, thereby losing both a friend and a patient.”
Dr. Héctor Monfort, who has practiced since the early 1980’s, concludes: “Being a physician for so many years has allowed me to meet thousands of people of all races and cultures, with different educational levels and very different and unique personalities. To all my patients I owe the opportunity to trust me and to let me enter deep into the multiple facets of their being (healthy and sick). I also have to thank them for being my teachers, for the opportunity to learn frequently about their ailments and diseases, and at the end of the journey, when it is medically impossible to offer them more, to allow me to accompany them as a friend and human being. For all this, and many more experiences that the practice of medicine has given me on a daily basis, I thank each patient infinitely for their trust.”