Is Medicine More Art than Science?

doctor-photoOur society has little tolerance for doctors who miss diagnoses (fear of malpractice suits drives a depressing number of decisions in health care), but this and other scenes in “One Doctor” reveal just how tricky diagnosing someone can be. Patients conceal things or grow delirious; symptoms contradict each other; scanners give false positives and false negatives. Despite modern technology, diagnosing people remains more art than science — even a sort of white magic.

From the book review by Sam Kean.

Comments (15)

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  1. Jackson says:

    “Our society has little tolerance for doctors who miss diagnoses”

    Mostly because it often results in death.

    • Billy says:

      You’d think with the money from malpractice suits, people would tolerate them a lot more.

    • S. B. MD says:

      Dear Jackson,
      You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about and must get your medical information from “The Enquirer”. Most missed diagnosis don’t result in death. In fact, many (if not the substantial majority) don’t end up affecting the actual outcome once a correct diagnosis has been made. What many laymen don’t understand about Medicine are the subtle aspects and judgment (based on education and experience) which go into making accurate diagnoses. This is why healthcare which overly relies on protocols, pathways and non-physician providers, will result in more “missed diagnoses” and lower quality of care. That being said, until this country changes the ridiculous “sue if the outcome isn’t perfect” attitude, health care costs will remain high due to the practice of defensive medicine. This mentality drives the cost of medicine up without really making a difference in the quality of care. Genuine healthcare reform cannot occur without tort reform (something Obamacare doesn’t even touch upon). Take a look at how much trial lawyers contribute to Democratic candidates and Obama; it’s no surprise tort reform was left out of the ACA.

  2. Stewart T. says:

    “Patients conceal things”

    Probably because they’re afraid of being charged more by unscrupulous hospitals and Republican doctors.

  3. Lucas says:

    The book does for the profession what the TV show Scrubs did. It attempts to pull back the curtain that surrounds the medical profession to show that these in fact are people who would react to situations just like anyone else.

  4. Perry says:

    Most definitely an art, but science helps.

  5. Tom G. says:

    “In modern medicine, it’s easy to forget that diagnoses are means, not ends”

    This was a great point. I enjoyed that review.

  6. Lucas says:

    “Medicine has grown increasingly dependent on technology in the past generation, but self-proclaimed dinosaurs like Dr. Reilly—he’s in his 60s—still rely on sights, sounds, smells and especially patient interviews to figure out what’s wrong.”

    And it is still working