Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31, 2011: the years's end

in pictures not in words but much to write and now I am free to do that since I completed an essay that took far longer then I had anticipated
indistinct, clarity, framing, time, aspiration, ideas, self, momento mori

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Paul Caspari, MD: in memoriam

Flora Arnswalder Caspari with her husband Paul Caspari, MD

I was trying to find a photograph of my grandfather, Paul Caspari MD in his medical coat, seated on the balcony of the family apartment in Berlin across from Sennefelderplatz, could could not locate it among the plethora of pictures that need organizing. Now that I am 70, I have outlived many of my family members. When I was young they were "old"; now that I am old they are young. Paradox of time and age. I never did meet my grandfather; he died before I was born. What I know about him was told to me by my mother. From her I will relate but one aspect of the man. He was a physician who lived for his patients; he lived in a district in Berlin where working class people lived as well as middle income as one denotes the middle class today. But affluent or poor he treated all alike. His practice was limited to Monday-Friday, but he was accessible at all times, be it morning or mid-night. A bell was affixed to the apartment building where he lived with his family and where he had his practice. If someone was in need at special hours, they pulled on this bell and alerted him to the patient downstairs and outside. He was a general practitioner and took on a variety of cases and diseases. I wished I could be mroe specific but I do not have the information. But he was one of Rudolf Virchow's students and wrote his doctoral dissertation in Latin for the great physician-teacher.
I mention these details because I would like to contrast him with the physicians of today (a broad generalization of course). One physican I met with to discuss a problem was debating whether she should purchase an Audi or another expensive vehicle for her daughter who was attending high school. This physician, who is respected for her expertise, will no longer take medicare patients because the reimbursement rate is not high enough. So people of low income--and who today is not?-- and who are aged and who need to see an outstanding specialist will no longer be able to afford to "buy this knowledge. And another physician's fees are so high that again a similar story is repeated. But in this case the physician was concerned about the purchase of art. Most enter the profession today for the sake of money alone; the notion of a physician as a healer, not a quack, but one who keeps up with the literature to insure that the patient receives the best care possible has almost disappeared. Why are there so many dermatologist/cosmetic surgeons, a surfeit of them when what is needed is a general practioner and internists who put the pieces back together again. Those doctors are regarded by the upper tier as losers; sound familiar. The same system has degraded the rest of our culture.

Now, let me return to my grandfather Paul, whose name was given to my brother Paul Peter in memory of this excellent person. He died in Berlin during a routine operation, when he suffered a heart attack before I was born on Pearl Harbor Day, 7 December, 1941. He witnessed the rise of Nazism and knew what was happening. Yet he chose to return to Berlin after a brief visit to the United States. He felt that it was his duty to care for those who needed his help. Fortunately he did not live to see what actually occurred. But his commitment to health care was primary; it was his calling. The next comment can easily be guessed, but I will forgo making it. Anyone with some wit can fill in the thought.
I am posting therefore pictures posted on other occasions, on other days when the Jahrzeit candle was lit in his memory. But I am the last of my family to carry out this act of memory. Neither my brother, my children or my grandchildren have any sense of responsibility. Indeed, the customs of Jewish heritage are performed for outward show and not from the heart, if indeed the heritage of their forebears is even recalled.