Bahá’u’lláh tells us that when we are sick, we should consult a competent physician, and sometimes it’s hard to find a doctor who we can trust. So how do we know if he’s competent or not?
The Writings give us some clues:
The doctor should know the patient as well as disease and remedies:
Consequently, the doctor must be aware of, and know, all the members and parts, as well as the constitution and state of the patient, so that he can prescribe a medicine which will be beneficial against the violent poison of the disease. In reality the doctor deduces from the disease itself the treatment which is suited to the patient, for he diagnoses the malady, and afterward prescribes the remedy for the illness. Until the malady be discovered, how can the remedy and treatment be prescribed? The doctor then must have a thorough knowledge of the constitution, members, organs and state of the patient, and be acquainted with all diseases and all remedies, in order to prescribe a fitting medicine. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 158)
My husband had glaucoma and in the early stages, while it was being monitored, he had a retinal detachment. The retinal surgeon prescribed medicine which caused his glaucoma to activate, causing further vision loss. You’d think that diseases of the eyeball, such a small part of the body, would be understood by all the eye specialists, but this was not the case. The retinal specialist only understood the retina, and the glaucoma specialist only understood the disease of glaucoma, and neither consulted with each other. These were not competent physicians, no matter their credentials, by the above definition!
Secondly, doctors should know the different remedies and medicines:
The skillful physician does not give the same medicine to cure each disease and each malady, but he changes remedies and medicines according to the different necessities of the diseases and constitutions. One person may have a severe illness caused by fever, and the skilled doctor will give him cooling remedies; and when at some other time the condition of this person has changed, and fever is replaced by chills, without doubt the skilled doctor will discard cooling medicine and permit the use of heating drugs. This change and alteration is required by the condition of the patient and is an evident proof of the skill of the physician. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 94)
Unfortunately, in material civilizations, most of the doctor’s knowledge of prescription drugs comes from the drug companies, who have their own agendas to promote, which aren’t in the interest of the patients!
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Third, doctors should know how to use both spiritual and material forms of healing:
O thou distinguished physician!…Praise be to God that thou hast two powers: one to undertake physical healing and the other spiritual healing. Matters related to man’s spirit have a great effect on his bodily condition. For instance, thou shouldst impart gladness to thy patient, give him comfort and joy, and bring him to ecstasy and exultation. How often hath it occurred that this hath caused early recovery. Therefore, treat thou the sick with both powers. Spiritual feelings have a surprising effect on healing nervous ailments (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)
Remedy the sick by means of heavenly joy and spiritual exultation cure the sorely afflicted by imparting to them blissful glad tidings and heal the wounded through His resplendent bestowals. When at the bedside of a patient, cheer and gladden his heart and enrapture his spirit through celestial power. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 285)
I went to a Persian Bahá’í doctor one time and was given a conventional course of treatment. When I asked a question, based on a particular quote from the Writings, she dismissed it as irrelevant! In her mind, there was no harmony between medicine and the Bahá’í Faith. This was not a “competent physician”.
What have been your experiences, trying to find a “competent physician”?