Filed under: brave new world | Tags: doctors, health, Simon Gray, specialization
The elephant’s trunk isn’t the elephant and the elephant isn’t tree-like; these misapprehensions are the pitfalls of specialization. To really know the elephant must be divine, and will require knowing more than one body part. It’s the same with knowing a patient when you’re a doctor. A specialist doctor who has overspecialized will never know the whole person. He may take care of that particular rare thing you have wrong with your elbow or larynx, and he’ll no doubt be able to afford some houses and boats, but he won’t be a better doctor because he won’t know the patient.
How can one trust doctors? They seem to know more and more about their own specialities, less and less about their patients. If they are ear, nose and throat people, then they know the ear, nose and throat of you, but not what these are attached to, you’re not present as a living and ailing organism, you’re there in the bits and pieces he know about, and he’s unlikely? unwilling? unable? to speculate about alternative explanations for your illness, there’s nothing wrong with your ear, nose and throat, so you’d better go to someone who specialized in something else and if you’re lucky you might eventually hit on a man who happens to specialize in whatever is killing you.
The Smoking Diaries, Simon Gray, p45
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