Prescription of Hope for Kids With Severe Maladies

Giving hope is part of medical ethics, but doctors have to be reminded and refreshed about it
The prescriptions instruct children to take up activities that are thought to boost their mood.The prescriptions instruct children to take up activities that are thought to boost their mood.

To help raise hope in children with hard-to-treat diseases, a campaign has been initiated by a group of artists calling on doctors to prescribe activities that lift up their spirits such as singing or feeding the birds.

The healing properties of hope are rather indisputable today. Recent studies show evidence that hope may have a healing effect in illness. The beneficial effects of placebo, a medicine or procedure prescribed for the psychological benefit of the patient rather than for any physiological effect, is also based on the patient’s belief or hope in that treatment. It often has a perceived or actual improvement in a person’s condition.

Nonetheless, enlivening programs are lacking in Iranian children’s wards. The existing psychological and social work sections are not guided by protocol. It is often left to personal discretion whether or not to include a play room in the pediatric ward, or joke with the sick kids during treatment sessions, says the mother of an ailing child.

Philanthropists’ programs such as competitions and toy distributions help but they are not regular and few and far between.

“Terminally-ill children need comforting words that can cheer them up and that works best with the medical staff whom they trust,” she said.

“You want to be a pilot, eh? You’ve got to start practicing now!” These were the encouraging words of a doctor to his small patient, which according to his mother brightened him up to the point that he truly wanted to start piloting right away.

Having observed the conditions of children in hospitals and feeling the urge to uplift their spirits, the artists’ group started a campaign titled “Hope for Ill Children”, the first phase of which involved celebrities writing “You Are My Hero” on a sheet and sending them a picture to indicate their support and sympathy.  

The second phase of the campaign calls for doctors to write ‘Prescriptions of Hope’ instructing children to take up activities that are thought to be good for their morale or boost their mood.

“Make boats with colored paper and offer them to those you love once a day; sing aloud twice a day; give wheat grains and breadcrumbs to birds once a day.”

These are a few examples of what doctors now write in their prescriptions for their little patients, stamped and signed.

  Raising Public Awareness

Abbas Habibi, director of the artists’ group, explained that the first phase of the campaign was aimed at raising public awareness and involving society in helping and encouraging children to fight their ailments.

“Everyone from across the country can send the message ‘You Are My Hero’ to the child patients to build up their confidence,” he was quoted as saying by the Persian daily Iran.

The second phase addresses the doctors who are pivotal to the treatment process and the primary sources of hope. “Unfortunately, giving hope to patients has not been defined as a task in our medical system; it is a missing link which we have decided to reestablish.”

The idea was to encourage doctors to consider lifting the patient’s morale before starting medical procedures.

“Through social networks, we called on all doctors to prescribe something other than medicine for their young patients” to raise their hope, said Habibi.

“Doctors’ psychological power lies in the fact that they have always been held in high esteem and considered a source of wisdom, and the belief that they are able to provide a cure come what may,” said Dr. Saeid Behzadifar, a psychologist, referring to traditional physicians or hakims who not only treated illnesses, but also offered sage counseling.

“Such expectations from doctors have survived throughout history which is why some people feel better after a doctor’s visit even without medication.”

The body’s defensive mechanisms work better in a hopeful state. Optimism keeps people healthier and if they are ill, it can help improve the recovery process, he noted.

“Giving hope is part of medical ethics, but doctors have to be reminded and refreshed about it.”

He voiced support for the measure maintaining that it has a tremendous effect on patients’ recuperation. “A doctor’s smile and cheerful face gives the patient the impression that he or she will be fine; a feeling which a frown or serious face can never create.”

Behzadifar pointed out, however, that the prescriptions must not be written superficially, but as part of the treatment process.

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