BLISS #1 Who are the Main Characters in Medicine?

19 Mar

Dr. Jun Chiba, MD, has been practicing medicine for 40 years, devoting nearly half of his career as a “home care doctor” who visits patients at home and cares for them until the end of their lives. He practices in Yokosuka city, Kanagawa Prefecture, where more people are able to spend their last days at home than any other city in the country. In Japan nearly 80% of people die at hospitals, even though many of them wish to die at home.

Chiba has been a supporter of music therapy for many years, and I’ve worked with him on many occasions. He has taught me the situations surrounding end-of-life care in Japan and the challenges we face as the aging population grows.

In my recent interview I asked him about the meaning of “healing,” the ideal death he envisions for himself, and his hope for the future generations of healthcare professionals.

Here is the summary:

  • He wanted to pursue a career in music, but his mother convinced him to become a doctor. In retrospect he feels it was the right decision for him and this work is his “tenshoku (天職),” or life work.
  • As a young doctor he specialized in rheumatological disease, a chronic condition. He realized that his patients needed more than medicine and began exploring ways to incorporate arts and music into his care.
  • As a doctor it’s important for him to continue to grow as a person. Otherwise he says, “You can become a machine who cures patients, but you can’t become a person who cares for a person.”
  • “Treat the person, not just the body,” said Chiba.
  • Without compassion one can’t help another.
  • He has always pursued what his heart desired and along the way met people with similar passion. They’ve  helped him actualize his dreams.
  • After having cared for so many dying, he feels that the ideal death for him is one that will bring him a sense of contentment. “But if it happens today, I don’t think I can be content. Not yet,” he said.
  • His advice for young doctors is to face their own mortality now so that they can be better doctors.

Knowing that a life eventually comes to an end gives you a sense of humility. For Dr. Chiba, caring for the sick and dying is more than just work.

You can listen to my podcast here or on iTunes.

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