March 1962

Medicine Before Automation

Author Affiliations

Chief Medical Director Veterans Administration Washington 25, D.C.

Arch Intern Med. 1962;109(3):251-255. doi:10.1001/archinte.1962.03620150001001

Recently The Lancet contained "A Dialogue of Tomorrow" by a Peripatetic Correspondent1:

Sir, can you tell me the meaning of an obsolete word? I know medical history is a hobby of yours.

I'll try. What word?


It meant listening.

Listening to what, Sir?

Sounds made by the human body... I thought you'd be puzzled. Doctors used to listen to their patients' bodies, and palpate them directly, too. Directly? You mean they used some simpler kind of palpating machine than ours?

No, really directly... I see I'll have to demonstrate. Come here. Put your hand on my wrist—right on it, skin to skin.

May I really, Sir?

Yes, yes: no-one's looking. Now in the old days, if you were the doctor and I the patient, that would have been the usual thing. Television wasn't used in medicine at all; you wouldn't have been lying in your helicopter; you'd have

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