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Old 06-25-2017, 07:48 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 11,541
Originally Posted by JWT Kottekoe View Post
Lewis Thomas talks about this in one of his books of essays, perhaps The Lives of a Cell. His father was a physician around 1900. His primary occupation was making house calls and, as an earlier poster remarked, his job was primarily to provide authoritative moral support to the patient and family. A good doctor was an excellent diagnostician, who could help his patients understand the nature of their illness and the prognosis. He could counsel them on simple remedies, like bed rest and therapeutic heat and cold. There were a variety of medications he might prescribe, but few, if any, provided more than a placebo effect. Thomas mentioned the smallpox vaccine as an extreme outlier, out of place with the other ineffective items in the physician's arsenal.

Thomas's books are wonderful. I read several about 40 years ago and the memory of their content has faded, but I clearly remember how much I liked them.
I was about to say something exactly like this. There were a limited number of things a doctor could actually help with. There was aspirin and, given anesthetics, a surgeon could remove a sick appendix, but by and large the most they could do was hold your hand and make a prognosis.

And I agree that Lewis Thomas's book were wonderful.