is a medical doctor and Director of Ethics at Fletcher Allen Health Care, one of the most comprehensive nonprofit healthcare organizations in New England. He is also a professor of family practice at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Recently, he spoke with a member of the Journal's staff ways the medical profession has changed, including its increasing openness to spiritual topics.
"During the 1960s, there was quite a bit of social turmoil, social upheaval, and focus on individual rights," says Dr. Orr. "That included patients' rights. Patients began saying, 'Wait a minute! This is my body and my health. I should be involved in these decisions.' "
That change, some 30 years ago, marked the beginning of a continuing trend toward more doctor-patient communication. Now, he notes, more attention is given to a patient's cultural beliefs and the ways an individual's upbringing, geographic origin, or family structure might influence the patient's healthcare choices.