Piotr Kosiorek

The importance of the person
Albert Schweitzer
for contemporary medical practice

              "Recently, the interest in his character in the West has waned. Not only because he is no longer a living, present hero whose fate can be followed thanks to the mass media, but probably also because, due to the patterns of the current young generation, Schweitzer is often too "traditional" or even "old-fashioned” [1].

Ija Lazari-Pawłowska

Is it really "traditional" and "old-fashioned"? Is it irrelevant to modern medical practice? I will try to answer this question in my work.

Albert Schweitzer is not only a genius of art, philosophy and science at the turn of the 20th century but a moral person close to our contemporary times. His attitude and thoughts are relevant today, and his living works are an excellent example of this today. Thanks to him, every being endowed with life becomes close to me. His words – to be human is simply to be in harmony with yourself and constantly work on yourself.

I derive my attitude in life from the person of Albert Schweitzer. Did any of us, finding ourselves in a particular life situation, be guided by the reverence for life when making a moral, responsible decision? Was he aware of the rationale behind his choice?

I would describe Albert Schweitzer briefly: a Christian doctor whose life attitude develops in people's hearts to this day, and the humanism resulting from it takes us into the third millennium. To be human means to experience and suffer with others, as he claimed. And I, too, want to follow these words because homo sum.

Doctor and healer of souls

              "Truly good and self-sacrificing people are extremely rare. In our time, even such people are difficult to understand. Schweitzer was excellent and self-sacrificing." [1].

Bertrand Russell

Albert Schweitzer, the son of a pastor, was born on January 14, 1875, in Kaysersberg, a town near Strasbourg in Alsace, then part of Germany (now France). When he went to elementary school, he noticed that his family's social status set her apart from others in the city. After the first day at school, the 6-year-old boy decided for himself, despite his parents' efforts, that he would no longer wear expensive and stylish clothes but would dress similar to his favourite peer. Thus began the little boy's interest in his relatives' matters, feelings, desires and emerging needs. "The right way in life is the way to alleviate suffering," he used to say.

At 18, he decided to become a professional musician and organist. Already his Paris teacher called him a genius. However, shortly after starting his studies in Paris, he decided to change his field of research and wanted to be a pastor. He enrolled at the University of Strasbourg. He made more choices. During his first year as a pastor, Schweitzer wrote his first two books – a religious book and a biography of J. S. Bach. They made Schweitzer a well-known and liked orator and performer of organ music all over Europe. For nine years, he has been passionate about studying science, music, theology and philosophy (Reverence for Life, The Quest for the Historical Jesus). After which, he could direct his broad interests to the Christian aspects of life.

First of all, I draw from his work ethic because I am impressed by the fact that he set high standards for himself. He probably never gave up. Work was his daily bread. Let us add that he started out in his youth and worked selflessly for the benefit of others. His greatness resulted from simplicity, nobility and honesty. Humility and patience, on the other hand, from the rich interior of the soul, gave him a noble colour.

His personality fascinates me. At 28, Schweitzer read a report about his work in the mission of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in Congo (now the Republic of Zaire). The living conditions and needs of the Africans influenced his further fate. Soon after reading this report, he quit teaching at the university and entered medical school, devoting himself to diligent service to humanity. I get the impression that his driving force was the desire to "raise life to the highest level", as he used to say. He saw more than just a human, selfish and sterile biological existence.

Eight years had passed since he began his medical studies when he persuaded the Paris Missionary Society to send him to Africa. He was accompanied by his wife, Helena Bresslau, who had adapted to the nurse role. In 1913, after a month's journey, they settled down on a mission 4 km away from the town of Lambaréné, situated on one of the arms of the great Ogoové (Ogowe) River. In 1876, a mission was founded by the American physician and missionary Dr Nassau. And from 1892, these areas became the property of the French mission. Schweitzer started his activity with only one room for the future hospital, an old henhouse. In such circumstances, his dreams came true, and his mission to help the sick in central Africa was fulfilled. The first barracks are built in autumn: an infirmary, an operating room and a pharmacy. He met over two thousand people in need during the first, hardest nine months of work.

I appreciate him for his direct approach and way of solving life problems. His attitude of an enthusiast and optimist, a quick organizer, and above all, a Great Man was reflected in overcoming new obstacles. He was stubbornly pushing forward with tiredness, doubt, and serenity. He was tirelessly completing the medical staff and "receiving" new patients. He found simple solutions. He treated them in the most natural conditions for the sick. He focused on quick, immediate and targeted help. He showed a lot of understanding of the suffering. Today we fight for this moral sensitivity all the time. People associated with him daily showed their hearts to him. While managing the hospital's work, he also solved significant life problems of Gabonians. His teachings at hospital services and at various ceremonies are still relevant today. He was a nonconformist. He preached the principles of moral goodness, truthfulness, faithfulness to oneself, honesty and justice. He saw only his neighbours. He saw the essence of humanity in the ethics of reverence for life and the will to live. "Man as such is our loved one" - as he used to say [1]. I believe that these words are the essence of our medical procedure.

              "No ray of sunshine is wasted.
              But the green that awakens needs time, and harvest time is not always available for
              the man that
              sows seeds.
              All good action comes from hope." [2].

Albert Schweitzer

During his lifetime, he was called a "great humanist" by people of many different faiths. He remained a modest man until the end. He simply wanted to "think in terms of man and humanity." His approach was thoroughly human and spontaneous. By imitating him, I also try to treat the patient subjectively.

Albert Schweitzer plays a morally integrating role in the modern world. In his person, I see the beginning of many activities aimed at society through the spiritual development of individuals. "Westerner" for Europeans, "Great Doctor" for Africans, still struggled to be a humanist scholar. At the age of 26, as a doctor of philosophy and theology, a creative and multi-talented man, he decided, following the voice of his conscience, to help his loved ones as directly as possible – as a doctor. Twin people are "every being endowed with life," not just every human being. "As long as a being suffers, there is no joy for a compassionate man" - as he used to say [2]. His human approach to the patient is closest to mine. I have never treated people objectively. The brotherly bond that connects us with our neighbours places obligations on us. I consider dullness and thoughtlessness the enemies of our moral life. We should be characterized by moral sensitivity and vigilance of conscience – as he used to say. To help the weaker, maladjusted or sick. A modern medical practice could learn a lot from him.

For many, he remained a well-known moral authority. "Our relationship to the world, given in the determination of our will to live when this will seeks to understand ourselves in thinking – that is what a worldview is. A worldview is derived from an outlook on life, not the other way around" [1].

              "In everything that you see in life – in everything you are" [1]

Albert Schweitzer

Already at the beginning of his medical practice, his noble and self-sacrificing approach to work explained his comprehensive education. Many distinguished people passed through the African hospital in Lambaréné, where he served for many years as a father, a "patriarch" for the indigenous peoples. They paid tribute to his work, satisfied his curiosity, or arrived morally obligated, feeling they were serving a just cause. "Ultimately, there must be some indestructible good core in many people. Otherwise, they would not be attracted to Schweitzer's greatness," stated Albert Einstein [2]. The strength of other people like him working with the sick did not result directly from the work of their hands but from the eye-catching examples based on "specific parts of life" [1].

When Schweitzer described his life's hardships, he was 56 years old. He worked constantly. When he was 80, he called himself a "slave of work". Those who did not see his work were attracted by his statements' directness, sincerity and simplicity. His conduct showed impeccable order. His unrestrained "nightmare" was the enormous correspondence from worldwide. "We strive to immediately show our gratitude without putting off. Then there will be more sun in the world and more willingness to do good deeds" [2].

The creative stage was the years of numerous organ concerts and lectures in Europe. After leaving the camp in 1918, exhausted by a severe illness, he quickly recovered. The driving force behind the hard work was the prospect of renewing the ruined hospital in the bush and the unprecedented desire to return to the patients who were close to him in need. The following 6 years of travelling around Europe resulted in a streak of success: in Zurich, he received his first honorary doctorate, he published his childhood memories and memories from Africa, a work of religious studies Christianity and world religions, a significant philosophical canon Philosophy of culture and others. He spent most of his busy life in Africa. He spent his free time planning to rebuild the ruins of the centre in Africa and establish a fruit orchard or a greengrocer next to the hospital. The harsh tropical climate was taking its toll on all my colleagues.

The journeys were to gain new strength for work. In fact, he was never alone in Lambaréné. He had many friends and quickly made new friends. "Do not miss the occasion when you can give something of yourself to people as a human" [1]. Due to his love for animals, he was compared to St. Francis. He had a whole menagerie: a dog, wild pigs – Tekla and Izabela, and three young pelicans, and he looked after entire orphaned chimpanzees. His Christian attitude – the idea of love for his neighbour- accompanied him daily. "There is only one thing morally good: doing good to someone," he used to say. There I imagine my future medical practice.

              "We will begin to respect the beliefs of every human being. We will be united by goals above all doctrine " [2]

Albert Schweitzer

When, before leaving for Africa, an evangelical pastor begins his life story, he refuses to take the "test of faith." It had an unshakeable character: "The dogmas of faith divide people. True religiosity unites" [2]. He wanted to be a Christian enough to live according to the indications of love for his neighbour. Schweitzer was very liberal as a theologian. He was neither a missionary nor a philanthropist – as he used to say.

His motto was the words –"(...) To live life properly, to be in the world, not of this world – this is religiousness" [2].

                "Sooner or later, the idea that I am advocating here will conquer the world because, with its inexorable logic, it enslaves both the mind and the heart” [2]

    Albert Schweitzer

    On December 10, 1954, in Oslo, Albert Schweitzer received the Nobel Peace Prize, which had been awarded to him two years earlier. His duties towards the sick prevented him from attending the ceremony. In this case, the honour of receiving the award fell to the French ambassador, Monicault. Schweitzer, then 79, traveled to Europe and delivered his thanks on November 4, 1954, at the University of Oslo. The speech in French lasted 55 minutes, and the gathered guests were enchanted by him. He wore "a refined old-fashioned black tailcoat, stand-up collar and tied quadruple," popularized by King Edward VII of England. He stood as straight as a string the whole time. Such an image undoubtedly belongs to a man who always acts according to his own rules, with a strong charismatic personality and a sense of his own dignity. These character traits show us the power of his influence.

    The words of his speech are so modern. "Man has become a superman" and "suffers from the mortal imperfection of his spirit." The progress of civilization imposes on us models of behaviour. It should not be like that. "It is the spirit that created humanitarianism, which is the beginning of everything, that guides us towards the forms of higher life." Schweitzer, for the amount of $ 33,000 obtained as a fee for the Nobel Prize, expands the hospital and opens rooms intended for lepers. In 1955, the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Elizabeth II, rewarded him with the "Order of Merit", Britain's highest civilian decoration. His missionary work began in the first sixteen years of his medical career. He spent little on sleep and rest. He was a man of inexhaustible strength. He was developing all the time. Every Doctor who wants to perform his profession reliably must consider what he is going for, at least for a moment. I will treat the patient as a companion, with due dignity, and his suffering will never be alien to me. These are, in my opinion, the main principles of Albert Schweitzer that I accept.

    The reverence for life

                "(...) The iron gate surrendered, and I saw the path in the thicket. Here I came across an idea that includes the affirmation of life, affirmation of the world and the essence of moral good" [2].

Albert Schweitzer

Schweitzer was called the Great Christian during his lifetime. He called his moral program the ethics of honor for life (die Ethic der Ehrfrucht vor dem Leben). This is his recipe for life. "The essence of good is to maintain life, foster life and raise life to the highest level. It is evil to destroy life, to harm life, and to inhibit life from developing. This is the basic principle of ethics - necessary, universal and absolute" [2]. I, too, follow this idea.

Brought up in the spirit of love for his neighbour, he was guided by the heart from an early age. He was no stranger to the problems of his peers. He matured very quickly. Even as a young man, he had versatile interests and enormous talent. What made him willingly take care of his fellow man? What was his behaviour guided by? We find the answer quickly. When asked about his affiliation, he replied: homo sum [1].

"What is youth? Youth is not only a certain period of human life, corresponding to a specific number of years, but it is also a time given to each person and at the same time given to him by Providence"[3]. So it is a time of hard work and enormous effort devoted to solving the fundamental problems of existence. But not only. Man is looking for a purpose in life. He is looking for the path he will choose and will follow. This is how Pope John Paul II replies to the question of an Italian journalist: "He (man) seeks not only the meaning of life but also looks for a specific project on which he should begin to build his life. This is the most important feature of youth" [3].

Schweitzer found his own "new and deeper justification". He based his ethics on the experience of solidarity with all creatures, on the expertise that permanently transforms the personality. He proclaimed that whoever meets his ethical requirements lives according to his true human nature. It is neither simple nor easy. In the face of the contemporary world around us, courage and patience are necessary, not only with patients but also with colleagues at work. According to him, this is the basis of an intense spiritual effort [2]. Today new questions arise. I believe that the more knowledge and moral maturity I have, the better and more merciful I care. Austerities and sacrifices must be made. And all your life to choose. As a doctor, I have an excellent opportunity to do so.

              "Life is strength. It is energy (...) Life is feeling, experiencing, and suffering. And when you go deeper into life and look with a bright eye at the powerful animated chaos, everything will suddenly spin in you: because here you will start to find yourself in everything" [2].

Albert Schweitzer

I would compare the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, accompanied by outstanding achievements in science and technology, with the modern progress of civilization at the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I certainly still respect the current words and thoughts of Albert Schweitzer. At the turn of the late nineteenth century, he spoke about a moral crisis, individuals' lack of spiritual development, their poor interior, and the lack of autonomously mature personalities. "Man lives with dull or distorted moral awareness"[2]. Such is the image of society stripped of virtues, described by the author himself in the Philosophy of Culture. According to him, the patterns of human attitudes must be changed to oppose it. He wanted people to draw from his concrete life works and cultivate a change and renewal of consciousness. Thanks to a lasting and continuous experience of solidarity, their attitude to life will be based on respect for life.

"Everyone for his Lambaréné"

            "To know each other – does it mean to know everything about yourself?
            It means to love, trust, and believe in each other (...)
            Meet others only
            could help a man
            at the time of its loss, its fall
            straighten up again and find (...)" [2].

Albert Schweitzer

The outbreak of World War I accompanied the arrival of the Schweitzers to Africa. Germany and France were at war. Eventually, they were found prisoners of war and sent to a camp in France. While in captivity, Schweitzer wrote his third book, A History of Ethics. This work of many volumes took many years to develop. After his return to Africa, his interest in humanitarian activities and work grew. People came and found his patients sitting in the clouds of dust and dirt outside the hospital building, cooking meals and living in the streets, with goats and chickens everywhere. These cruel Spartan hospital conditions would not be acceptable anywhere else, but the missionary doctor knew what he was doing. The Africans were not admitted to the hospital and did not have daily diets. So, instead of pushing away from patients, adhering to the principles of medical care of that time with convenience - "modern conveniences", guided by instinct, he tried to help them with all his strength. He healed, cared for the sick, advised and fed children, and when there was a food shortage, he looked for support and organized meals from the meat of livestock. Albert Schweitzer decided to fight hunger and disease in all sorts of ways. Introducing hygiene, preventing disease recurrences and raising the spirits of those under care.

In the dynamically developing Europe at the end of the 19th century, a new vision of "sanitary engineering" was being created not only as an influence of the activities of microbiologists but also as an expectation of exceptional "comfort". For example, the siphon is triumphant among the new devices – a hydraulic end-of-century project [4]. Already at the turn of the century, it is not the word "help" but the word "solidarity" that prevails in activities for the health of society. A new vision of interdependence: defend yourself by defending others and protect yourself from germs by safeguarding everyone. The word "sanatorium" is beginning to take a new rank as it strengthens the weakest and promotes pro-health behaviours. As H. Landouzy wrote in Cure De Sanatorium Simple et Associetée – the sanatorium is to introduce into the "life of the popular classes customs and precautions to prevent the development of diseases" [4].

When visiting his beloved corner, travellers described his devotion and the "flower" that grew on his land. They assisted the missionary and left a part of themselves. Their efforts concentrated on a small unknown hospital at the edge of the world, which, thanks to their solidarity and dedication, has, over time, shone with fame.


              "Honor for life, veneratio vitae, is the most immediate and, at the same time, the deepest achievement of my will to live" [2].
Albert Schweitzer

He was more than just a doctor. Albert Schweitzer is a humanist obsessed with thousands of human lives existing in unimaginably harsh conditions. Courageously facing war, disease and old age. Giving everything for little or nothing. His life's dream came true to help those in need in their urgent service to humanity. In the beginning, he treated leprosy, malaria and coma. In 1917, as a prisoner of the camp in St. Remy Schweitzer said - "Every day I feel as a great blessing that when others are forced to take life, I can save a life" [1]. He inspired countless young people to dedicate themselves to serving humanity through his actions in hopeless situations. "His hospital" was dominated by Swiss, the reason was the location of the recruiting centre. It was a white hospital for blacks. Africa today is more open. Medical assistance goes almost everywhere. Given the enormous needs of numerous inhabitants of Africa, this is just a drop in the ocean.

"But please remember that millions of people there suffer without hope for help (...). We must wake up and see our responsibility" [2]. It is our duty and life task, not good deeds.

Contemporary medical practice, what is it like?

              „Because I have confidence in the power of truth, and of the spirit, I have confidence in the future of mankind”
Albert Schweitzer

The modern medical approach is pragmatic. Politicians, primary care organizations, medical teachers and the general public are showing increasing interest in this issue. Currently, in the world, primary and specialized medical care is respected in terms of its scope and quality. The level of knowledge goes hand in hand with the quality of services offered to patients. We improve their quality. We extend the time devoted to the patient during the visit, optimize the referral process to a specialist and introduce new functioning patterns and cooperation between general practitioners and specialists. Do we really do that? Is it actually working for us? Doesn't the sick person suffer from it?

As a young researcher and teacher, I try to use the acquired medical knowledge in my work with students and to develop my own thoughts. I conduct experiments and observations. Besides, as a volunteer, I participate in medical care for patients in the clinic. I am no stranger to the conditions of cooperation between doctors and patients. He often rebels against the mistreatment of patients, the lack of time for them, due respect, and interest in their problems. Following the example of an actual doctor who fulfilled his mission, Albert Schweitzer is devoted to his patients in this regard.

I think I will follow this pattern. "However, I am not losing my courage. The misfortune I have seen mobilizes my strength, and faith in people sustains my trust" [2].

          "I decided to become a doctor to act without words. All my life, I tried to talk " [2]
Albert Schweitzer

He was undoubtedly a man of science. As a professor at the University of Strasbourg, he becomes a medical student, despite his family and friends. "The Great Doctor of the Virgin Forest" - as he is called in Africa, he prepared his doctoral dissertation on Kant at the Sorbonne in Paris, and he habilitated in the life of Jesus. Theology was a profession and a passion for him. Friends will tell him later that "in Africa, he saved old Negroes, and in Europe, old organs" [5]. The nature of the work of the hospital in the jungle was determined by way of life of Albert Schweitzer. It was meticulous duty and 24-hour readiness. New Lambaréné is a unique mini-community. A place of treatment and energy at the same time.

Following the founding of the Schweitzer Foundation on September 24, 1974, national foundation member organizations were established in many countries. Max Caulet, the hospital's administrative director, found the purpose of his life in Lambaréné, just like Albert Schweitzer laid the foundation for a new hospital and left a memento of the organizer of the original idea [5]. Even though Schweitzer opposed using individuals as role models, he was a perfect example for generations..

It can be said with complete conviction that during the lifetime of Albert Schweitzer, the "Schweitzer movement" flourished. The collaboration of many centres in various fields of science was united by the person of an outstanding theologian and humanist. It electrified the efforts to help all those in need.

As the doyen of the Polish Schweitzer movement, Professor Henryk Gaertner writes, "the milestone in the promotion of Schweitzer's ideas and works" was establishing this organization in 1975 on Polish soil [6,7,8].

Among ourselves

              "There is nothing sadder in the world than a lack of love.
              They need to know someone loves them”.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

What is the result of his attitude to contemporary medical practice? Doctors from all over the world are protesting against wars, terrorism, and the arms race. Professional ethics is more and more often relegated to the background. Government research, biological, and pharmaceutical centres remain beyond control. In contemporary times, the end of the 21st century is accompanied by the spectre of the extermination of humanity as a result of nuclear war [9].

Albert Schweitzer found his own ethics of veneration for life while meditating at night in the privacy of the African bush. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had a calling while travelling on a train filled with paupers, beggars and the homeless. She was alone, had no money, no roof over her head, and had nothing to eat. She accompanied the sick on the last journey of their lives. She would often say, "The leprosy is bearable. It is less misfortune than loneliness. " The Saint of the Gutters, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1979, resigned from a peaceful and prosperous life. She chose the slums of Calcutta. The Missionaries of Charity run several hundred homes for children, the poor, the homeless, those with AIDS, and the lepers in over one hundred countries. There are many examples of dedicating one's life to working with the sick and of self-sacrificing work for the benefit of others. There are many of them all over the world. The point is that we should understand the essence of this help daily and not be indifferent to it.

I know the example of a modern missionary doctor personally. He is, for me, a living example of the continuation of the work of Albert Schweitzer. Well, a few years ago, during my medical practice in a hospital in Białystok, I met a verbist monk, Jerzy Kuźma, a medical sciences doctor and a second-degree general surgery specialist. He received his first missionary destiny in Papua New Guinea. He works with his brothers in the hospital in Kundiawa, located in the picturesque mountains at an altitude of about 1,500 m. In my mind, I still repeat the words of Albert Schweitzer, slightly modernized: Everyone has their own Kundiawa. Father Kazimierz Tomaszewicz says about him - "He is an incredibly cheerful man, very righteous. He's working on himself all the time." I am enchanted by his serenity, inner strength, and drive to work. Grażyna Gliszczyńska, the editor, in the article entitled: "Missionary surgeon" in the morning courier of Białystok of December 24, 1996, writes: "In the missionary petition, he wrote that he would like to work primarily in Africa. He placed Papua New Guinea in second place, followed by the developing countries of Asia. He wanted to help the poorest. "

His medical attitude is natural and imbued with love for others. As he writes in his letters, frequent work with the sick is complemented by the mystical power the bushmen have for him. As a Christian, showing his heart, he fights with evil spirits (masalay) and gives life strength by healing tribal curses (sangumas). At many mission stations, under these difficult conditions, doctors worldwide work with the sick, risking their own lives.

              "Young people today - what are they like, what are they looking for?..." [3]
Pope John Poul II

              "Will the modern man find the strength to do what the spirit demands of him and what the possibility of time wants to take away from him?" [2]

Albert Schweitzer

The challenge for our medical work is the fruit left to our children. They are patients devoted to our care. An excellent hospital team assisted the missionary in his work. The first nurses were Matilda Kottman and Emmy Hausnecht. They and later Ali Silver contributed to the centre's atmosphere [1]. Schweitzer supporters kept growing. Emmie Martin, the singer, gave up her career, and for many years she served as its representative, liaison, and advocate in the renovated family house in Günsbach. In the apartment where he worked, in silence and solitude, he had a beautiful view of the Vosges slopes covered with forest and vineyards. His archive and museum were established there [1].

            "One must always veritatem facere in caritate (to do the truth in love)." [3]

Pope John Paul II

Today, many institutions, hospitals and centres that help the poor and the sick in need pay tribute to him as their patron. Among others, "His Hospital" belongs to him – as he used to say, Lambaréné in Gabon and the Albert-Schweitzer-Hospital in Northeim, Germany. The tropical climate of Central Africa, with high air humidity and frequent downpours in the lowlands of the Moyene Ogoové province, makes it an area of ​​epidemiological importance. This hospital collaborates with other tropical medicine and infectious disease centres in many countries around the world, researching the epidemiology of malaria and many other diseases. Located south of the city of Lambaréné, 180 km from the capital Libreville. It has around 600 inhabitants, most of whom are in contact with the hospital, of whom only a few works on the land surrounding the hospital or are engaged in fishing. The hospital has electricity, running water, and laundry facilities and the village is kept in excellent sanitation. It is surrounded by farmland and dense tropical forest, which provides good protection against heavy rainfall during the long rainy season. Children attend primary school in the village and are educated in secondary schools. Patients come from all over Gabon. Most of the villagers are older people, with youth migration in search of work and few visitors. The burning problem faced by doctors is the high mortality and mortality from malaria, especially in infants and young children [10, 11, 12]. Anopheles gambiae s.s. and A. funestus are this region's major disease transmission vectors. The province of Moyene Ogoové is a hyper-epidemic region, mainly for Plasmodium falciparum and P. malariae and P. ovale. Most infections with parasites are found in the short dry season (October to December) and after a short rainy season. This centre plays a significant role in numerous immunological and chemotherapeutic [12-15] and diagnostic tests [16].

            "In an attitude of deep reverence for life there is an elementary notion of responsibility to which we must abandon; there are forces in it that compel us to revise and refine our individual, social and political attitude". [2]
Albert Schweitzer

More and more often, the moral and legal aspects of doctors' activities are discussed in the pages of medical journals. "Medicine is the most morally conditioned procedure in which a doctor decides about the health and life of another person" [17]. The author of these words sees the moral and legal obligation of striving to preserve human life in contemporary medical practice imposed on every Doctor. I believe each medical procedure has its own conditions and should be followed appropriately.

Other examples of ethics violations include the issue of cloning a human being, the use of animals for experimental research, the use of non-human methods of medical research, or the admissibility of medically assisted procreation methods [17,18,19]. As Albert Schweitzer wrote, Ethics, which deals only with the relationship of man to other people, is incomplete. Does all of this serve the glory of the Creator? Will they be compatible with the modern concept of human dignity? There are still no comprehensive answers. Er has left an invaluable legacy. His work has a universal dimension. He infected many generations of doctors with the bug of working in the seemingly hopeless sanitary and existential conditions of the Lambaréné hospital. He drew the attention of the whole world to the problem of hunger. He was an advocate of the weak, the poor and the sick. The idea of the hospital was to make the conditions as close as possible to the patient's natural environment and to the atmosphere of the family home. Next to the wooden hospital barracks, residential barracks and open-air kitchens were built, in which the patient's family lived. Another treatment assumption was stable indoor climate conditions. Only the operating rooms of the new hospital in Lambaréné are air-conditioned. However, the problem that I would like to raise concerns the indifference to medical actions. There is inexhaustible energy and potential in each of us, one would say vis vitalis, used every day in interpersonal contacts, in the doctor-patient relationship. Are we willing to help those in need? Is our humanitarianism complete or selective?

Summing up, I think that today's physician needs a conversion. Get rid of unnecessary material benefits. Schweitzer wrote - "You have to create a new awareness of the law (...) We all have to become religious thanks to thinking" [2]. We need self-confidence, focus and work on ourselves. Convinced that everything is essential. Our interiors must be open and ready to accept new challenges. Love and heart should guide our actions. "Humanitarianism requires us to listen to our heart in small and great things and to follow its instructions" [2]. Such a core of personality is needed in an attitude of reverence for life. Numerous vivid examples show us that the Doctor's legacy was not lost.

"Remember that you, too, are weak and need constant conversion. You can empower others as long as you know your weakness" [3]. Christ's words to Peter serve to maintain unity in faith. They can also mean they don't give up or seek new ways. John Paul II strengthens the bonds of unity. Schweitzer does this by seeing the sense of a lasting experience of solidarity. He used to say he did not want moral role models to follow. He wants proof and specific works in every area of life - "(...) One should not talk about any man in this way. Each of us knows to a limited extent that we can set an example for others. People find this other quality to follow in us, but no one should be set as an example" [1].

For several years, the health education problem in overpopulated and economically weak countries has penetrated us. Many organizations work for the hungry and sick. John Paul II once again drew attention to our neighbours. He made February 11 the World Day of the Sick.

Shortly before his death, Schweitzer's wife asked him how long he intended to stay in Africa. His only response was, "As long as I have breath." Today, the words of doctors should also be followed by actions. In 1965, Albert Schweitzer, musician, writer, theologian, philosopher and physician, died at the age of 90 while working in his dream hospital in Africa.

Although it may seem that he started work quite late, changing direction twice, he spent almost 50 years there, saving the sick from inevitable starvation, with the constant conviction that he was doing it for God's glory, in the name of new generations.

In the words of Albert Schweitzer, he reads the science for the coming 21st century - "We must now each of us fully activate the goodness that corresponds to our essence. It should reveal itself as energy influencing the course of history and lead us into the era of humanitarianism" [2]. For - "Without loving man, without the ability to establish deep mental contact with the suffering person, do not enter the field of human misery. Medicine is not only science built by reason, but also art was drawn with the heart and intuition" [20].


  • 1. Lazari-Pawłowska I.: Schweitzer. Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa 1976.
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    All rights reserved & Copyright 2022
    Translated into English by Piotr Kosiorek.

    The article appeared in the book (in Polish language):

    “Albert Schweitzer in the eyes of young Polish medics”

    Edited by: Kazimierza Imielińskiego, Christiana Imielińskiego, Andrzeja Imielińskiego Warszawa 1999, pages: 59-76. Albert Schweitzer World Academy of Medicine