Friday, January 06, 2006

A Question to Ponder

Recent postings on the subject What are Doctors For reminds me that the practice of medicine has always been a combination of art and science. The science part deals with facts. The art part involves judgment.

Physicians make use of science (or should), but it is the judgment part that makes them doctors. One’s blood sugar level is a fact that can be determined by a machine. But what if anything should be done about it is a matter of judgment, which is where the doctor comes in.

As the years have gone by, the science of medicine has expanded enormously. For a long time, it dealt mainly with the development of better diagnostic tools and more effective treatments. More recently, there has been research to identify the most effective approaches to treatment. One result has been the emergence of protocols; i.e., formalized treatment plans based on the results of these studies.

In other words, the science part of medicine has expanded while the art component has contracted.

Does it therefore follow that we should need fewer doctors?

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