April 23, 1973

Patient as Manuscript

JAMA. 1973;224(4):523. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03220170049016

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"Treat the patient, not the disease"—the imperative of holistic medicine—reflects a transition from pure cold science to humanism in patient care. We need not dispute the virtues of this humanistic approach to ask ourselves whether it is always practical. Does every sick man really wish to be treated as a "whole" person rather than as a case? Without resorting to a Gallup poll we can be sure that many do not, and for a variety of reasons. Some are mechanically oriented. Viewing the body as a machine, they approach the doctor as they would a garage mechanic. All they want is a quick repair job and nothing more. Others are by nature so taciturn that they cannot or are unwilling to give any but curt answers to probing questions. Still others are too circumstantial and evasive. And, of course, there is the man who takes pride in being a unique