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JAMA 100 Years Ago
July 21, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(3):390. doi:10.1001/jama.292.3.390-a

The tendency to overvalue the new and strange at the expense of the old and tried, with the resultant faddism, is a characteristic of human nature, and is of necessity found in physicians as in the rest of mankind. The tendency undoubtedly leads to the rapid adoption of new methods of value, but it also leads to the widespread use of many methods of very doubtful worth. The recent address of Sir Dyce Duckworth1 is really a protest against the indiscriminate adoption of new appliances, and the indiscriminate use of new drugs and methods of treatment. There is much truth in Dr. Duckworth's remarks concerning the use of so-called instruments of precision in the modern study of disease. While of the greatest value in some instances, there can be no question that their use has led on the whole to a decay of the powers of observation dependent on the use of the unaided senses. The trouble lies, of course, not with the instruments themselves, but with those who use them. The indolent streak which is present in most of us causes us to be on the lookout for short cuts and quick methods, and we are apt to grasp at the latest appliance as the diagnostic philosopher's stone for which we have so long been searching. Then, again, the profession as a whole has apparently not yet learned that the results obtained by the use of instruments of precision are to be correlated with the clinical findings, and not to be treated as separate and exact data.