Hospitals use televisions to quiet, calm, sedate (?), and ostensibly assist suffering patients.

The practice can be beneficial, many would argue — and who wouldn’t demand their ‘right’ to a t.v. set? But what is actually going on with all the watching?
I’ve questioned the merits of televisions in hospitals, arguing that silence and stillness (not soap operas) promote healing, and that maybe hospital stays are time to get away from all that false drama anyway and deal with our own.
Maybe this is an ethical issue, maybe one relating to health and spirituality. Kevin, MD’s weblog, an excellent resource, reports in Children’s Hospital in Boston in a television controversy that:
    “There are TVs all over the hospital despite the recommendation that children under 2 should not be watching TV. The hospital says it distracts from sometimes painful treatment:
      ‘Before installing the televisions in the new cardiac unit last year, she said, the hospital sought input from patients’ families and found overwhelming interest in having television. The parents wanted them not just as a distraction for the children but also as entertainment for parents who are there for long stretches, including times when a child is sleeping. Shaw said the hospital is “aware of and, to the extent possible, respectful” of the pediatrics academy guideline. There are no televisions in the neonatal intensive care unit, for instance.'”
What happened to clowns, balloons, volunteer care, warm smiles, human contact? Maybe we should just attach electrodes and plug patients into the Internet, or stimulate the pleasure centers in their brains electronically….
Kevin’s weblog cites Pediatricians criticize use of TVs in hospital, in which the Boston Globe reports that the installation of television sets for pediatric patients has been controversial, and that the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Communication “issued a policy in 1999 setting guidelines for TV viewing for children of all ages — including no television for children 2 or younger — and reaffirmed it in 2001.”
In the context of health care and spirituality, and views from the perception of the human energy field, I wrote in Future Medicine:
“As another example, most hospital rooms have television sets, the idea being that these technological boxes carrying images and sounds help comfort and care for the patient. The ubiquitous presence of the television set in the hospital is taken for grant, as an aid to healing through pleasant distraction. Yet television entrains the brain. Few, if any, shows modernly are uplifting. Messages typically are filled with violence. The sounds and images have particular force on the subconscious of a person who is in a weakened condition, physically, emotionally and psychically. From the healer’s perspective, the person lying on the bed is entranced into the chatter on the “tube,” even as their consciousness may be drifting to different layers of the energy field, seeking information to assist in the healing process.
“Even if the person’s own television set is turned off, most rooms have more than one occupant (with a screen separating them), and sounds from the other set likely will be audible. This is just part of the culture. But just as individuals need physical rest for healing similarly there is a need for a cessation of stimulation, and emotional and psycho-spiritual refreshment through silence. At least, this is the teaching of generations of monastic life across the traditions: silence heals. Silence allows the body’s energies to settle. But instead, we muffle the spirit, anesthetize the life force, block the flow of vital energy and barrage the body’s systems with requests for information, chatter, and distraction.
“Energetically, the avalanche of information coming from the television invades and overloads a system of subtle bodies that need to focus on sealing holes in the aura, repairing chakras, and doing the internal work of recovery on all levels. Consciously, the patient may not notice the confusion, the incessant flow of information, the detrimental effects; the patient may even welcome the distraction. Unconsciously and energetically, the patient suffers.
“This is not to say that humor, distraction, and engagement are not positive tools that television might offer; rather, that the mindless inclusion of television within the healing environment does not, from the healer’s perspective, represent a choice designed to augment healing energies in the biofield. Further, from a spiritual perspective, watching television cuts off individuals from other forms of conversation–for examination, for communion with their families during crucial moments in the lifetime, for communion within, for conversation with God. From the perspective of transformation, the hospital environment may be functional in many physical respects, but does not reflect healing at all levels of the field.”
Not all will agree, particular those lauding skepticism about energy healing and other such matters (though I have argued for a careful balance at the “borderland of medicine and religion”, particularly in a new book by this title). On the other hand, spending time in even the best U.S. hospitals has been compared by health care patients to a “third world experience” or worse, whereas perhaps the more appropriate metaphor, one could argue, should be that of a monastery, depending on what procedure one is undergoing and what one is contemplating.
(It is not unreasonable, I would argue, to contemplate the spiritual planes during colonoscopies and airplane turbulence even if one is rationally attuned to the statistical likelihood of coming through safely).