What Is Care?
To cure rarely, to relieve suffering often, to comfort always.
The word care has multiple meanings. One meaning is ethical, suggesting compassion, solicitude, or devotion toward the sick. Another meaning is supervisory, implying to be in charge of or responsible for some person or object. Lastly, care denotes forms of interventions or remedies used in the production of health. All three meanings pertain to our inquiry.
Because human beings and their systems are mutually enfolded, our inquiry into the question What is care? is an exploration into the thoughts that inform both the quality of human relationships and the resources used in the production of health. Of course, this presupposes that we know what health is.
When we think of the word care, the cliche [tender, loving care] often comes to mind. Generally speaking, care is a synonym for quality, because the term tacitly refers to the remedy and the healer's skills.
In systems language, our inquiry What is care? explores the types of resources, or inputs, used in the production of health. At this level, we are examining primarily the effectiveness of remedy. However, because health insurance pays for care, we are also looking at the influence of health insurance. This is more than asking whether are we treating the right patient with the right remedy, that is, addressing pinpoint-specific quality issues; we are actually inquiring into the health care system's capacity, its ability to be effective.