Is there no cure for me?

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Heshie Klein, MD

How to Respond When Someone Asks: "Is There No Cure For Me?"
An Editorial by: Harvey (Heshie) Klein, MD

There is perhaps nothing more devastating to a patient or a family member than being face to face with a health care professional telling him there is nothing more that can be done for him. Many patients have heard statements like: "There is nothing wrong with you" or "Your pain is not real. It's in your head." Or "There's nothing that can be done for you. There is no cure for what you have."
Is there really no cure? Is there no hope?


Shemoneh Esrei

The real answer as to whether there is a cure for any of us lies in the eighth bracha (blessing) of the Shemoneh Esrei (silent meditation) in which we ask Hashem, "Refa'einu Hashem v'neirafei." (Heal us, G-d, and we will be healed).

That promise seems to contain unnecessary language. Isn't it a given that if Hashem heals us, we will be healed? Why the double language?

In his elucidation on the Siddur, the 18th-century master, Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman, commonly known as the Vilna Gaon, explains that the bracha means that the refuah (cure) is always created before the makkah (illness or pain). "Refa'einu Hashem" means we know that the refuah already exists; "v'neirafei" means we are asking Hashem to allow us to access the refuah for this person.

Not a Miracle

In the Purim story, the refuah-before-the-makkah scenario plays itself out. Esther was already the queen when Haman rose to a position of power. We were saved through the actions taken by Esther because she was already in place when the problem of Haman reared its ugly head.
Therefore, if the cure is already in place when the disease rears its ugly head, we don't need a miracle. We need only to be able to access the cure, the refuah. We ask Hashem to help us access the refuah that already exists.

If it is true that the refuah is created before the makkah—the cure is created before the disease—it is misinformed and misleading for any medical practitioner to tell a patient or fellow sufferer that there is no cure.

How to Respond

Knowing this, we need to be able to respond to the person—whether it is a physician, relative, or friend—who informs us that there is no further hope for a cure.

First, as we keep searching, we must know in our hearts and souls that all doctors, relatives, and friends are trying to help, especially when we are not feeling well. To be sure, the person who offers such a dictum speaks from a limited perspective and may not be aware of the gift of refuah that Hashem offers us in our Torah and Siddur.

Praying to be able to access the refuah that already exists, that has already been created, is more effective than praying for a miracle.

It is important to remember that whenever anyone tells us there is no cure, that no more can be done, the cure was created before the illness was. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the 17th-18th-century great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, instructs us to never give up. Keep praying for access to G-d's refuah.

Keep in mind the words of the Vilna Gaon. I have watched sparks of hope reignited, smiles return, and tears of joy shed when this is explained to patients who, before coming into my office, believed there was no hope for them.

Doctors Don't Cure

All health-care professionals, before going into the office or hospital each day, should ask Hashem: "Please help me to access the refuah for each patient I will see today."

We doctors do not cure. We are sheluchim, the messengers of G-d, who, hopefully, fulfill the words of the Torah in Exodus 21:19: "v'rapo yerapei," and he shall provide for healing.

We are given permission by the Torah to heal. But that permission is also a mandate. As doctors, we must do our best to learn everything possible to help our patients. And we must always remember that Hashem does the healing, not us.

Copyright© 2010, Harvey (Heshie) Klein, MD by permission to Ourmed

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