Views & Reviews Medical Classic

The Extraction of the Stone of Madness

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 08 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3676
  1. Desmond O’Neill, consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine, Dublin
  1. doneill{at}

The Extraction of the Stone of Madness by Hieronymus Bosch

Museo del Prado/Madrid

As technology and basic science feature more prominently in clinical practice, a corresponding challenge is to keep these advances in perspective for trainees and students. Philosophers from Kant to Habermas have warned against scientism—seeing science as the principal form of knowledge rather than as one of many forms. But at every post-take ward round, the complexities of the psychological and social aspects of medicine struggle unequally with the seductive, but often illusory, certainties of hard data.

It is not just our junior colleagues who are waylaid in this way; the general public is equally bedazzled by technology. …

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