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September 1953


AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1953;70(3):286-298. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1953.02320330011002

AT THE very basis of the science of the healing art lies the problem of how the physician effects a cure. Since the most ancient of times the very best among physicians have been impelled to venture some judgment on this score.

The Greeks, the Romans, and their heritors held that it was only nature that heals. The physician merely treats—Natura sanat: medicus curat. This dictum was tersely paraphrased by Ambroise Paré—"Je le pansay, Dieu le guarit" ("I bandaged him, but God cured him"). This affirmation of the physician's limited function is likewise reflected in the terms "therapist" and "therapeutics"; these words are derived from the Greek term which means "servant." The physician's modest pretensions, wherein the greater credit for the cure is given to nature or, in later times, to God, may indeed have stemmed from his inherent humility. Some skeptics, however, have suggested that they served