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March 1994

The Candidate Who Mistook His Patient for a Disease

Arch Neurol. 1994;51(3):301-303. doi:10.1001/archneur.1994.00540150103025

It is the function of medication, or surgery, or appropriate physiological procedures, to rectify mechanism—the mechanism, the mechanisms, which are so deranged in these patients. It is the function of scientific medicine to rectify the "It." It is the function of art, of living contact, of existential medicine, to call upon the latent will, the agent, the "I," to call out its commanding and coordinating powers, so that it may regain its hegemony and rule once again—for the final rule, the ruler, is not a measuring rod or clock, but the rule and measure of the personal "I." These two forms of medicine must be joined, must co-inhere, as body and soul.

Oliver Sacks1


At a recent oral examination by The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in New York, a candidate examined a 35-year-old man with a spinal cord deficit that had been progressive for 15 years.