Does a patient's hope matter? Yes, of course. A more interesting question is, "What should a patient hope for?"
[Excerpt from Healing Hope]
As a practicing internist, I knew patients' hope mattered. What I didn't realize until a few years into my own survivorship was the importance of investing only in healing hopes—specific hopes that help patients get good care and live as fully as possible. My understanding of which hopes are healing began with a definition of hope and an exploration of mechanisms by which hope might help patients.
Hope is a pleasant feeling linked to a belief that the desired outcome could happen. As a cancer patient, I assure you the pleasantness counts for something. Like honey added to a bitter mix, hope takes the edge off fear, sadness, and other unpleasant emotions of survivorship.
Hope helps patients feel better. Does it help them get better? It's likely that hope, along with expectation, contributes to the placebo effect, self-healing significant enough to require placebo controls in clinical trials.
For the sake of argument, let's assume a patient's hope has no direct effect on healing. Still, I believe it plays a vital role in physical well-being.
In my next post, I'll explain how.