Soundings

Diagnosing trees and men

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7105.434 (Published 16 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:434
  1. George Dunea, attending physician
  1. Cook County Hospital, Chicago, USA

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    Trees are to be enjoyed, admired, worshipped, climbed on, cut down for pulp or furniture, or ground up to cure malaria and cancer. Their infinite variety and complicated taxonomy require the aspiring diagnostician to study them long and hard, along majestically lined avenues, on country roads, in green parks, and arboretums. Like reading Proust, you travel but never arrive. Like learning medicine, the task is never completed. You alternate forever between the ecstasy of an astute diagnosis and the crushing humiliation of a diagnostic blunder. Maples and oaks, willows and chestnuts are easy, stuff for beginners.

    But there are treacherous trees that look like one thing and turn out to be another. What you take for …

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