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Medicine And Books

The Lost Art of Healing

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 20 September 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:755
  1. D J Weatherall, regius professor of medicine
  1. University of Oxford

Bernard Lown: Houghton Mifflin, £15.99 ISBN 0 395 82525 3

Many, especially older, clinicians believe that medical practice has lost its way. Gone are the caring physicians who could take a thorough history and carry out a competent physical examination, or so the argument goes, and they have been replaced by super-specialised technicians who process their patients by means of laboratory tests and complex, high technology diagnostic machinery. Through a combination of the need for haste, engendered by the increasing commercialisation of medical care, and fear of litigation, patients are exposed to innumerable unnecessary investigations; clinical wisdom, kindness, and pastoral care are at a premium. In short, healing is a lost art.

This pessimistic view may have influenced the General Medical Council's recent pronouncements on the future of medical education in Britain. Similar thinking in the United States is reflected in this book by Bernard Lown, the distinguished Boston cardiologist and acceptor of the 1985 Nobel Peace …

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