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Patient Quotes (199 quotes)

He who doth with the greatest exactness imaginable, weigh every individual thing that shall or hath hapned to his Patient, and may be known from the Observations of his own, or of others, and who afterwards compareth all these with one another, and puts them in an opposite view to such Things as happen in a healthy State; and lastly, from all this with the nicest and severest bridle upon his reasoning faculty riseth to the knowledge of the very first Cause of the Disease, and of the Remedies fit to remove them; He, and only He deserveth the Name of a true Physician.
Aphorism No. 13 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 3.
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In a 1852 letter, Nightingale records the opinion of a young surgeon:
The account he gives of nurses beats everything that even I know of. This young prophet says that they are all drunkards, without exception, Sisters and all, and that there are but two whom the surgeon can trust to give the patients their medicines.
Letter to Miss H. Bonham Carter (8 Jan 1852), quoted in Edward Tyas Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale (1914), Vol. 1, 116.
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Male secum agit æger, medicum qui hæredem ficit.Br>That sick man does ill for himself, who makes his physician his heir.
In 'Ornamenta Rationalia, or, Elegant Sentences' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), No. 31, 364. A century later, Benjamin Franklin included this in his Poor Richard’s Almanac as “He’s a Fool that makes his Doctor his Heir.”
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[Trousseau regarded as the chief aim of medicine:] Get that patient well.
As quoted by F.H. Garrison in editorial, 'The Evil Spoken of Physicians and the Answer Thereto', Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine (Feb 1929), 5, No. 2, 145.
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Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?
Doctor: Not so sick, my lord,
As she is troubled with thick-coming fancies,
That keep her from her rest.
Macbeth: Cure her of that.
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?
Doctor: Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.
Macbeth: Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it.
Macbeth (1606), V, iii.
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A certain author defines a doctor to be a man who writes prescriptions till the patient either dies or is cured by nature.
The Reflector: Representing Human Affairs As They Are (1750). In The Pocket Lacon (1839), Vol. 1, 59.
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A doctor is a man who writes prescriptions till the patient either dies or is cured by nature.
…...
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A doctor who cannot take a good history and a patient who cannot give one are in danger of giving and receiving bad treatment.
Anonymous
In Paul Dudley White , Clues in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Heart Disease (1956), Introduction.
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A doctor who doesn’t say too many foolish things is a patient half-cured. (1921)
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because some one expended effort on them.
In Philip Dorf, Liberty Hyde Bailey: An Informal Biography: a Pioneer Educator in Horticulture (1956), 83.
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A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
In 'A Noiseless Patient Spider', Broadway: A London Magazine (1868), reprinted in Leaves of Grass (5th ed., 1871, 1888), 343.
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A patient pursuit of facts, and cautious combination and comparison of them, is the drudgery to which man is subjected by his Maker, if he wishes to attain sure knowledge.
In 'Productions Mineral, Vegetable and Animal', Notes on the State of Virginia (1787), 112.
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A physician advised his patient that had sore eyes, that he should abstain from wine; but the patient said, “I think rather, sir, from wine and water; for I have often marked it in blue eyes, and I have seen water come forth, but never wine.”
In 'A Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), No. 52, 279.
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A physician’s subject of study is necessarily the patient, and his first field for observation is the hospital. But if clinical observation teaches him to know the form and course of diseases, it cannot suffice to make him understand their nature; to this end he must penetrate into the body to find which of the internal parts are injured in their functions. That is why dissection of cadavers and microscopic study of diseases were soon added to clinical observation. But to-day these various methods no longer suffice; we must push investigation further and, in analyzing the elementary phenomena of organic bodies, must compare normal with abnormal states. We showed elsewhere how incapable is anatomy alone to take account of vital phenenoma, and we saw that we must add study of all physico-chemical conditions which contribute necessary elements to normal or pathological manifestations of life. This simple suggestion already makes us feel that the laboratory of a physiologist-physician must be the most complicated of all laboratories, because he has to experiment with phenomena of life which are the most complex of all natural phenomena.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 140-141.
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A reference to the two sorts of doctors is also found in the Republic: “Now you know that when patients do not require medicine, but have only to be put under a regimen, the inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of a man.”
Osler is referring to Plato’s Dialogues, iii, 153. In Address (1893) to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Historical Club, 'Physic and Physicians as Depicted in Plato', collected in Aequanimitas: With Other Addresses to Medical Students, Nurses and Practitioners of Medicine (1904), 70.
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A surgeon should give as little pain as possible while he is treating the patient, and no pain at all when he charges his fee.
Anonymous
‘FRCS’ in The Times, quoted by Reginald Pound in Harley Street (1967).
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Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination, a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. But nearly all the grandest discoveries of science have been but the rewards of accurate measurement and patient long-continued labour in the minute sifting of numerical results.
Presidential inaugural address, to the General Meeting of the British Association, Edinburgh (2 Aug 1871). In Report of the Forty-First Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1872), xci.
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Again and again, often in the busiest phases of the insulin investigations, he [Frederick Banting] found time to set a fracture or perform a surgical operation on one of his army comrades or on some patient who was in need.
In 'Obituary: Sir Frederick Banting', Science (14 Mar 1941), N.S. 93, No. 2411, 248.
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All that concerns the Mediterranean is of the deepest interest to civilized man, for the history of its progress is the history of the development of the world; the memory of the great men who have lived and died around its banks; the recollection of the undying works that have come thence to delight us for ever; the story of patient research and brilliant discoveries connected with every physical phenomenon presented by its waves and currents, and with every order of creatures dwelling in and around its waters.
From Literary Papers (1855), 106. As quoted in On Early Explorations in the Mediterranean.In George Wilson and Archibald Geikie, Memoir of Edward Forbes F.R.S. (1861), 279. Geike introduces the Forbes quote as “the recollection of these, his earliest explorations in the Mediterranean,” as written down years later.
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An expert problem solver must be endowed with two incompatible qualities, a restless imagination and a patient pertinacity.
From In Mathematical Circles (1969).
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An intelligent patient, private or otherwise, to whom you have taken the trouble to explain the nature of the investigation, makes the best laboratory animal.
'Some of the ‘Do’s’ and ‘Do-Nots’ in Clinical Investigation,' Journal of Clinical Investigation (1944), 23, 921-26.
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An old Scotch physician, for whom I had a great respect, and whom I frequently met professionally in the city, used to say, as we were entering the patient's room together, 'Weel, Mister Cooper, we ha' only twa things to keep in meend, and they'll searve us for here and herea'ter; one is always to have the fear of the Laird before our ees; that 'ill do for herea'ter; and t'other is to keep your booels open, and that will do for here.'
'Lecture 3, Treatment of Inflammation', The Lectures of Sir Astley Cooper (1825), Vol. 1, 58.Lectures on surgery, Lect. 3.
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And science, we should insist, better than other discipline, can hold up to its students and followers an ideal of patient devotion to the search to objective truth, with vision unclouded by personal or political motive, not tolerating any lapse from precision or neglect of any anomaly, fearing only prejudice and preconception, accepting nature’s answers humbly and with courage, and giving them to the world with an unflinching fidelity. The world cannot afford to lose such a contribution to the moral framework of its civilisation.
Concluding statements of Pilgrim Trust Lecture (22 Oct 1946) delivered at National Academy of Science Washington, DC. Published in 'The Freedom of Science', Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (25 Feb 1947), 91, No. 1, 72.
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Any physician who advertises a positive cure for any disease, who issues nostrum testimonials, who sells his services to a secret remedy, or who diagnoses and treats by mail patients he has never seen, is a quack.
'The Sure-Cure School,' Collier’s Weekly (14 Jul 1906). Reprinted in The Great American Fraud (1907), 84.
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Anyone of common mental and physical health can practice scientific research. … Anyone can try by patient experiment what happens if this or that substance be mixed in this or that proportion with some other under this or that condition. Anyone can vary the experiment in any number of ways. He that hits in this fashion on something novel and of use will have fame. … The fame will be the product of luck and industry. It will not be the product of special talent.
In Essays of a Catholic Layman in England (1931).
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Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion. Remember he is face to face with his enemy all the time.
In Notes on Nursing: What it is, and What it is Not (1860), 53.
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As an adult she had her organs removed one by one. Now she is a mere shell with symptoms where her organs used to be.
Written as an intern on one of his patient's charts; commentary on the result of surgical treatment of non-organic disease.
In Barry G. Firkin, Judith A. Whitworth, Dictionary of Medical Eponyms (1966), 267.
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As soon as we got rid of the backroom attitude and brought our apparatus fully into the Department with an inexhaustible supply of living patients with fascinating clinical problems, we were able to get ahead really fast. Any new technique becomes more attractive if its clinical usefulness can be demonstrated without harm, indignity or discomfort to the patient... Anyone who is satisfied with his diagnostic ability and with his surgical results is unlikely to contribute much to the launching of a new medical science. He should first be consumed with a divine discontent with things as they are. It greatly helps, of course, to have the right idea at the right time, and quite good ideas may come, Archimedes fashion, in one's bath..
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Before his [Sir Astley Cooper’s] time, operations were too often frightful alternatives or hazardous compromises; and they were not seldom considered rather as the resource of despair than as a means of remedy; he always made them follow, as it were, in the natural course of treatment; he gave them a scientific character; and he moreover, succeeded, in a great degree, in divesting them of their terrors, by performing them unostentatiously, simply, confidently, and cheerfully, and thereby inspiring the patient with hope of relief, where previously resignation under misfortune had too often been all that could be expected from the sufferer.
In John Forbes (ed.), British and Foreign Medical Review (Jul 1840), 10, No. 19, 104. In Bransby Blake Cooper, The Life of Sir Astley Cooper (1843), Vol. 2, 37.
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Before you tell the ‘truth’ to the patient, be sure you know the ‘truth’ and that the patient wants to hear it.
Chinese proverb.
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Break the chains of your prejudices and take up the torch of experience, and you will honour nature in the way she deserves, instead of drawing derogatory conclusions from the ignorance in which she has left you. Simply open your eyes and ignore what you cannot understand, and you will see that a labourer whose mind and knowledge extend no further than the edges of his furrow is no different essentially from the greatest genius, as would have been proved by dissecting the brains of Descartes and Newton; you will be convinced that the imbecile or the idiot are animals in human form, in the same way as the clever ape is a little man in another form; and that, since everything depends absolutely on differences in organisation, a well-constructed animal who has learnt astronomy can predict an eclipse, as he can predict recovery or death when his genius and good eyesight have benefited from some time at the school of Hippocrates and at patients' bedsides.
Machine Man (1747), in Ann Thomson (ed.), Machine Man and Other Writings (1996), 38.
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Building goes on briskly at the therapeutic Tower of Babel; what one recommends another condemns; what one gives in large doses another scarce dares to prescribe in small doses; and what one vaunts as a novelty another thinks not worth rescuing from merited oblivion. All is confusion, contradiction, inconceivable chaos. Every country, every place, almost every doctor, have their own pet remedies, without which they imagine their patients can not be cured; and all this changes every year, aye every mouth.
Weekly Medical Gazette, of Vienna
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But it is precisely mathematics, and the pure science generally, from which the general educated public and independent students have been debarred, and into which they have only rarely attained more than a very meagre insight. The reason of this is twofold. In the first place, the ascendant and consecutive character of mathematical knowledge renders its results absolutely insusceptible of presentation to persons who are unacquainted with what has gone before, and so necessitates on the part of its devotees a thorough and patient exploration of the field from the very beginning, as distinguished from those sciences which may, so to speak, be begun at the end, and which are consequently cultivated with the greatest zeal. The second reason is that, partly through the exigencies of academic instruction, but mainly through the martinet traditions of antiquity and the influence of mediaeval logic-mongers, the great bulk of the elementary text-books of mathematics have unconsciously assumed a very repellant form,—something similar to what is termed in the theory of protective mimicry in biology “the terrifying form.” And it is mainly to this formidableness and touch-me-not character of exterior, concealing withal a harmless body, that the undue neglect of typical mathematical studies is to be attributed.
In Editor’s Preface to Augustus De Morgan and Thomas J. McCormack (ed.), Elementary Illustrations of the Differential and Integral Calculus (1899), v.
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Correct is to recognize what diseases are and whence they come; which are long and which are short; which are mortal and which are not; which are in the process of changing into others; which are increasing and which are diminishing; which are major and which are minor; to treat the diseases that can be treated, but to recognize the ones that cannot be, and to know why they cannot be; by treating patients with the former, to give them the benefit of treatment as far as it is possible.
Diseases, in Hippocrates, trans. P. Potter (1988), Vol. 5, 113.
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Cure the disease and kill the patient.
‘Of Friendship’, Essays.
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Dermatology is the best specialty. The patient never dies and never gets well.
Anonymous
J. Dantith and A. Isaacs, Medical Quotes: A Thematic Dictionary (1989)
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DIAGNOSIS, n. A physician's forecast of disease by the patient's pulse and purse.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  70.
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Doctor Johnson said, that in sickness there were three things that were material; the physician, the disease, and the patient: and if any two of these joined, then they get the victory; for, Ne Hercules quidem contra duos [Not even Hercules himself is a match for two]. If the physician and the patient join, then down goes the disease; for then the patient recovers: if the physician and the disease join, that is a strong disease; and the physician mistaking the cure, then down goes the patient: if the patient and the disease join, then down goes the physician; for he is discredited.
In 'A Collection of Apophthegms, New and Old' (1625). As given in Essays, Moral, Economical, and Political: A New Edition, With the Latin Quotations Translated (1813), No. 147, 308. The doctor is identified Ben Johnson by Forbes Winslow in his notes appended to Physic and Physicians (1842). Notes section, 39. Perhaps he means poet and playwright of stage comedy, Ben Jonson (1572-1637), also referred to in the book as “Benjamin Johnson” and once as “Dr. Johnson.” Note that Francis Bacon (1561-1626) died well before the life of writer Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
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Doctors coin money when they do procedures—family practice doesn’t have any procedures. A urologist has cystoscopies, a gastroenterologist has gastroscopies, a dermatologist has biopsies. They can do three or four of those and make five or six hundred dollars in a single day. We get nothing for the use of our time to understand the lives of our patients. Technology is rewarded in medicine, it seems to me, and not thinking.
Quoted in John McPhee, 'Heirs of General Practice,' New Yorker (23 Jul 1984), 40-85. In David Barton Smith and Arnold D. Kaluzny, The White Labyrinth (2000), 227.
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Doctors in all ages have made fortunes by killing their patients by means of their cures. The difference in psychiatry is that is the death of the soul.
From Address (Jul 1967), 'The Obvious', to the Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, London, collected in David Cooper, The Dialectics of Liberation (2015), 19.
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Doctors think a lot of patients are cured who have simply quit in disgust.
…...
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Each patient ought to feel somewhat the better after the physician’s visit, irrespective of the nature of the illness.
…...
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Eugen Bleuler (who in 1911 coined the word 'schizophrenia') once said that in the end his patients were stranger to him than the birds in his garden. But if they're strangers to us, what are we to them?
Hurry Down Sunshine (2009), 26.
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Every consideration that did not relate to “what is best for the patient” was dismissed. This was Sir William [Gull]’s professional axiom. … But the carrying of it out not unfrequently involved him in difficulty, and led occasionally to his being misunderstood. … He would frequently refuse to repeat a visit or consultation on the ground that he wished the sufferer to feel that it was unnecessary.
In Memoir, as Editor, prefacing Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xviii.
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For a billion years the patient earth amassed documents and inscribed them with signs and pictures which lay unnoticed and unused. Today, at last, they are waking up, because man has come to rouse them. Stones have begun to speak, because an ear is there to hear them. Layers become history and, released from the enchanted sleep of eternity, life's motley, never-ending dance rises out of the black depths of the past into the light of the present.
Conversation with the Earth (1954), 4
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He is the best Physician in whom the Patient has the greatest Confidence.
The Reflector: Representing Human Affairs As They Are (1750). In Allan Ingram, Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century (1998), 69.
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He, who for an ordinary cause, resigns the fate of his patient to mercury, is a vile enemy to the sick; and, if he is tolerably popular, will, in one successful season, have paved the way for the business of life, for he has enough to do, ever afterward, to stop the mercurial breach of the constitutions of his dilapidated patients. He has thrown himself in fearful proximity to death, and has now to fight him at arm's length as long as the patient maintains a miserable existence.
Quoted by William M. Scribner, 'Treatment of Pneumonia and Croup, Once More, Etc,' in The Medical World (1885), 3, 187.
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Here the most sublime scene ever witnessed in the operating room was presented when the patient placed himself voluntarily upon the table, which was to become the altar of future fame. … The heroic bravery of the man who voluntarily placed himself upon the table, a subject for the surgeon’s knife, should be recorded and his name enrolled upon parchment, which should be hung upon the walls of the surgical amphitheatre in which the operation was performed. His name was Gilbert Abbott.
Description of the first public demonstration of ether at the Massachussetts General Hospital (16 Oct 1846).
From the Semi-Centennial of Anesthesia, Massachusetts General Hospital (1897). In Logan Clendening, Source Book of Medical History (1960), 373.
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I am inclined to think I shall owe ten years of my life to the good effects of the gas, for I inhale about 20 gallons every day in showing patients how to commence. The gas is just like air, only containing a little more oxygen. Oxygen is what gives life and vitality to the blood. We live on oxygen.
Quoted in The Electrical Review (11 Aug 1893), Vol. 33, 143.
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I don’t know if I would call it a miracle. I would call it a spectacular example of what people can do. To me, it’s like putting the first man on the moon or splitting the atom. We’ve shown that if the right treatment is given to people who have a catastrophic injury that they could walk away from it.
Expressing optimism for further recovery for Kevin Everett, a Buffalo Bills football player who suffered a paralyzing spinal injury during a game (9 Sep 2007), but after two days of hospital treatment had begun voluntarily moving his arms and legs. Green credits as significant to the recovery was that within minutes of his injury, the patient was quickly treated with intravenous ice-cold saline solution to induce hypothermia.
Quoted in John Wawrow, 'Bills' Everett Improves, May Walk Again', Associated Press news report, Washington Post (12 Sep 2007).
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I have failed in finding parasites in mosquitoes fed on malaria patients, but perhaps I am not using the proper kind of mosquito.
Letter to his wife (14 Aug 1897). In Memoirs, With a Full Account of the Great Malaria Problem and its Solution (1923), 221.
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I have lived myself to see the disciples of Hoffman, Boerhaave, Stalh, Cullen, Brown, succeed one another like the shifting figures of a magic lanthern, and their fancies, like the dresses of the annual doll-babies from Paris, becoming from their novelty, the vogue of the day, and yielding to the next novelty their ephemeral favor. The patient, treated on the fashionable theory, sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine.
In letter to Caspar Wistar (21 Jun 1807), collected in Thomas Jefferson Randolph (ed.), Memoir, Correspondence, And Miscellanies, From The Papers Of Thomas Jefferson (1829), Vol. 4, 93.
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I have long since come to see that no one deserves either praise or blame for the ideas that come to him, but only for the actions resulting therefrom. Ideas and beliefs are certainly not voluntary acts. They come to us—we hardly know how or whence, and once they have got possession of us we can not reject or change them at will. It is for the common good that the promulgation of ideas should be free—uninfluenced by either praise or blame, reward or punishment. But the actions which result from our ideas may properly be so treated, because it is only by patient thought and work, that new ideas, if good and true, become adopted and utilized; while, if untrue or if not adequately presented to the world, they are rejected or forgotten.
In 'The Origin of the Theory of Natural Selection', Popular Science Monthly (1909), 74, 400.
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I have sometimes experienced from nitrous oxide, sensations similar to no others, and they have consequently been indescribable. This has been likewise often the case with other persons. Of two paralytic patients who were asked what they felt after breathing nitrous oxide, the first answered, “I do not know how, but very queer.” The second said, “I felt like the sound of a harp.”
Referring to his investigation of the effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
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I look upon a good physician, not so properly as a servant to nature, as one, that is a counsellor and friendly assistant, who, in his patient’s body, furthers those motions and other things, that he judges conducive to the welfare and recovery of it; but as to those, that he perceives likely to be hurtful, either by increasing the disease, or otherwise endangering the patient, he thinks it is his part to oppose or hinder, though nature do manifestly enough seem to endeavour the exercising or carrying on those hurtful motions.
Quoted In Barbara Kaplan (ed.) Divulging of Useful Truths in Physick: The Medical Agenda of Robert Boyle (1993), 125.
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I must … explain how I was led to concern myself with the pathogenic protozoa. … I was sent to Algeria and put in charge of a department of the hospital at Bone. A large number of my patients had malarial fevers and I was naturally led to study these fevers of which I had only seen rare and benign forms in France.
From Nobel Lecture (11 Dec 1907), 'Protozoa as Causes of Diseases', collected in Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967, 1999), 264.
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I prefer the spagyric chemical physicians, for they do not consort with loafers or go about gorgeous in satins, silks and velvets, gold rings on their fingers, silver daggers hanging at their sides and white gloves on their hands, but they tend their work at the fire patiently day and night. They do not go promenading, but seek their recreation in the laboratory, wear plain learthern dress and aprons of hide upon which to wipe their hands, thrust their fingers amongst the coals, into dirt and rubbish and not into golden rings. They are sooty and dirty like the smiths and charcoal burners, and hence make little show, make not many words and gossip with their patients, do not highly praise their own remedies, for they well know that the work must praise the master, not the master praise his work. They well know that words and chatter do not help the sick nor cure them... Therefore they let such things alone and busy themselves with working with their fires and learning the steps of alchemy. These are distillation, solution, putrefaction, extraction, calcination, reverberation, sublimination, fixation, separation, reduction, coagulation, tinction, etc.
Quoted in R. Oesper, The Human Side of Scientists (1975), 150. [Spagyric is a form of herbalism based on alchemic procedures of preparation.]
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I should object to any experimentation which can justly be called painful, for the purpose of elementary instruction ... [but I regret] a condition of the law which permits a boy to troll for pike, or set lines with live frog bait, for idle amusement; and, at the same time, lays the teacher of that boy open to the penalty of fine and imprisonment, if he uses the same animal for the purpose of exhibiting one of the most beautiful and instructive of physiological spectacles, the circulation in the web of the foot. ... [Maybe the frog is] inconvenienced by being wrapped up in a wet rag, and having his toes tied out ... But you must not inflict the least pain on a vertebrated animal for scientific purposes (though you may do a good deal in that way for gain or for sport) without due licence of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, granted under the authority of the Vivisection Act.
... [Yet, in] 1877, two persons may be charged with cruelty to animals. One has impaled a frog, and suffered the creature to writhe about in that condition for hours; the other has pained the animal no more than one of us would be pained by tying strings round his fingers, and keeping him in the position of a hydropathic patient. The first offender says, 'I did it because I find fishing very amusing,' and the magistrate bids him depart in peace; nay, probably wishes him good sport. The second pleads, 'I wanted to impress a scientific truth, with a distinctness attainable in no other way, on the minds of my scholars,' and the magistrate fines him five pounds.
I cannot but think that this is an anomalous and not wholly creditable state of things.
'On Elementary Instruction in Physiology'. Science and Culture (1882), 92.
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I tell [medical students] that they are the luckiest persons on earth to be in medical school, and to forget all this worry about H.M.O.’s and keep your eye on helping the patient. It’s the best time ever to be a doctor because you can heal and treat conditions that were untreatable even a couple of years ago.
From Cornelia Dean, 'A Conversation with Joseph E. Murray', New York Times (25 Sep 2001), F5.
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I think it perfectly just, that he who, from the love of experiment, quits an approved for an uncertain practice, should suffer the full penalty of Egyptian law against medical innovation; as I would consign to the pillory, the wretch, who out of regard to his character, that is, to his fees, should follow the routine, when, from constant experience he is sure that his patient will die under it, provided any, not inhuman, deviation would give his patient a chance.
From his researches in Fever, 196. In John Edmonds Stock, Memoirs of the life of Thomas Beddoes (1810), 400.
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I trust I may be enabled in the treatment of patients always to act with a single eye to their good.
Letter to his sister Jane (3 Mar 1857). In John Vaughan, 'Lord Lister', The Living Age (1918), 297, 361. Reprinted from The Fortnightly Review (1918), 109, 417- .
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I use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices. It ought to signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet, and the proper selection and administration of diet—all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.
Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not (1860), 2.
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I'm not a wizard or a Frankenstein tampering with Nature. We are not creating life. We have merely done what many people try to do in all kinds of medicine—to help nature. We found nature could not put an egg and sperm together, so we did it. We do not see anything immoral in doing that in the interests of the mother. I cannot see anything immoral in trying to help the patient’s problem.
As quoted by thr Associated Press after the birth of Louise Brown, the first baby born by in vitro fertilization. Reprinted in, for example,'First test-tube baby born in England', Toledo Blade (27 Jul 1978), 1. As reported, the first sentence was given in its own quote marks, followed by “Dr. Steptoe said,” so the quote may not have been delivered as a single statement.
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If a patient is cold, if a patient is feverish, if a patient is faint, if he is sick after taking food, if he has a bed-sore, it is generally the fault not of the disease, but of the nursing.
In Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1859), 6.
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If a patient is poor he is committed to a public hospital as a 'psychotic.' If he can afford a sanitarium, the diagnosis is 'neurasthenia.' If he is wealthy enough to be in his own home under the constant watch of nurses and physicians, he is simply 'an indisposed eccentric.'
…...
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If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife and cure it, or if he open a tumor (over the eye) with an operating knife, and saves the eye, he shall receive ten shekels in money. …
If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with an operating knife, and cut out the eye, his hands shall be cut off. ...
If a physician heal the broken bone or diseased soft part of a man, the patient shall pay the physician five shekels in money.
[The Code of Hammurabi (a king of ancient Babylon), the earliest well-preserved ancient law code, circa 1760 B.C.]
Hammurabi
In L. W. King (trans.), The Code of Hammurabi (1910), 22, No. 215, 218 and 221.
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If I have done the public any service this way, ’tis due to nothing but industry and a patient thought.
From opening of letter to Richard Bentley (17 Jan 1692/3). Collected in Four Letters From Isaac Newton to Doctor Bentley, Containing Some Arguments in Proof of a Deity, (1756), 1.
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If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important.
In The Conquest of Happiness (1930), 74.
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If I were a physician I would try my patients thus. I would wheel them to a window and let Nature feel their pulse. It will soon appear if their sensuous existence is sound. The sounds are but the throbbing of some pulse in me.
(26 Feb 1841). In Henry David Thoreau and Bradford Torrey (ed.), The Writings of Henry Thoreau: Journal: I: 1837-1846 (1906), 224.
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If Melancholy increases so far, that from the great motion of the Liquid of the Brain the Patient be thrown into a wild Fury, it is call’d Madness.… The greatest Remedy for it is to throw the Patient unwarily into the Sea, and to keep him under Water as long as he can possibly bear without being quite stifled.
Aphorism No. 1118 and 1123 in Boerhaave’s Aphorisms: Concerning The Knowledge and Cure of Diseases (1715), 302-303.
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If migraine patients have a common and legitimate second complaint besides their migraines, it is that they have not been listened to by physicians. Looked at, investigated, drugged, charged, but not listened to.
Quoted by Walter Clemons, 'Listening to the Lost', Newsweek (20 Aug 1984).
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If the patient dies, the doctor has killed him; if he gets well, the saints have saved him.
In H. Pullar-Strecker, Proverbs for Pleasure (1954), 194.
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If three simple questions and one well chosen laboratory test lead to an unambiguous diagnosis, why harry the patient with more?
Anonymous
Editorial, 'Clinical decision by numbers'. Lancet (1975) 1, 1077.
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If you are too fond of new remedies, first you will not cure your patients; secondly, you will have no patients to cure.
Attributed. In Peter McDonald, Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 25.
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Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.
In The Roving Mind (1983), 26.
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In a Dublin hospital, many years ago, it was noticed that the death-rate was markedly higher in the ground-floor wards than it was in the wards upstairs. This fact was commented on in an official report, and marked down as requiring investigation. Then it was discovered that, when new patients came in, the porter of the hospital was in the habit of putting them upstairs if they could walk by themselves, and downstairs if they could not.
From 'Figures Can Lie', Science Digest (Sep 1951), 30, No. 3, 53. (As condensed from The Listener). Excerpted in Meta Riley Emberger and Marian Ross Hall, Scientific Writing (1955), 407.
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In acute diseases the physician must conduct his inquiries in the following way. First he must examine the face of the patient, and see whether it is like the faces of healthy people, and especially whether it is like its usual self. Such likeness will be the best sign, and the greatest unlikeness will be the most dangerous sign. The latter will be as follows. Nose sharp, eyes hollow, temples sunken, ears cold and contracted with their lobes turned outwards, the skin about the face hard and tense and parched, the colour of the face as a whole being yellow or black.
Prognostic, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1923), Vol. 2, 9.
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In my experience of anorexia nervosa it is exclusively a disease of private patients.
Cited as “Attributed” to Sir Adolf Abrams of Westminster Hospital, in Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 1. Webmaster assumes this is properly “Sir Adolphe Abrahams,” of that hospital, (confirmed there by an obituary), after finding nothing for the sound-alike “Sir Adolf Abrams.” If you know a primary source for the quote, please contact Webmaster.
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In psychoanalytic treatment nothing happens but an exchange of words between the patient and the physician.
From a series of 28 lectures for laymen, Part One, 'The Psychology of Errors'. Lecture 1, 'Introduction' collected in Sigmund Freud and G. Stanley Hall (trans.), A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1920), 3.
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In the first papers concerning the aetiology of tuberculosis I have already indicated the dangers arising from the spread of the bacilli-containing excretions of consumptives, and have urged moreover that prophylactic measures should be taken against the contagious disease. But my words have been unheeded. It was still too early, and because of this they still could not meet with full understanding. It shared the fate of so many similar cases in medicine, where a long time has also been necessary before old prejudices were overcome and the new facts were acknowledged to be correct by the physicians.
'The current state of the struggle against tuberculosis', Nobel Lecture (12 Dec 1905). In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1901-1921 (1967), 169.
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In the patient who succumbed, the cause of death was evidently something which was not found in the patient who recovered; this something we must determine, and then we can act on the phenomena or recognize and foresee them accurately. But not by statistics shall we succeed in this; never have statistics taught anything, and never can they teach anything about the nature of the phenomenon.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 138.
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It is a curious and painful fact that almost all the completely futile treatments that have been believed in during the long history of medical folly have been such as caused acute suffering to the patient. When anesthetics were discovered, pious people considered them an attempt to evade the will of God. It was pointed out, however, that when God extracted Adam's rib He put him into a deep sleep. This proved that anesthetics are all right for men; women, however, ought to suffer, because of the curse of Eve.
In An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943), 13.
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It is a good thing for a physician to have prematurely grey hair and itching piles. The first makes him appear to know more than he does, and the second gives him an expression of concern which the patient interprets as being on his behalf.
…...
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It is better to employ a doubtful remedy than to condemn the patient to a certain death.
Anonymous
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It is easy for men to give advice, but difficult for one’s self to follow; we have an example in physicians: for their patients they order a strict regime, for themselves, on going to bed, they do all that they have forbidden to others.
Philemon
'The Sicilian.' In Gustave Jules Witkowski, The Evil that Has Been Said of Doctors (1889), 4-5
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It is no part of a physician's business to use either persuasion or compulsion upon the patients.
Aristotle
Politics, VII, ii.
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It is not what disease the patient has but which patient has the disease.
Anonymous
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It is the patient workers, and the active, kindly sympathetic men and women who hold the balance of things secure.
Aphorism in The Philistine (Apr 1905), 20, No. 5, 160.
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It is the unqualified result of all my experience with the sick that, second only to their need of fresh air, is their need of light; that, after a close room, what hurts them most is a dark room and that it is not only light but direct sunlight they want.
Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not (1860), 120.
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It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a Hospital that it should do the sick no harm.
First sentence of Preface to Notes on Hospitals (1859, 3rd. Ed.,1863), iii.
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It was above all in the period after the devastating incursions of the Goths that all branches of knowledge which previously had flourished gloriously and been practiced in the proper manner, began to deteriorate. This happened first of all in Italy where the most fashionable physicians, spurning surgery as did the Romans of old, assigned to their servants such surgical work as their patients seemed to require and merely exercised a supervision over them in the manner of architects.
From De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem: (1543), Book I, i, as translated by William Frank Richardson, in On The Fabric of the Human Body: Book I: The Bones and Cartilages (1998), Preface, xlviii.
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It would be very unsafe, unwise, and incorrect to assume that a patient either can or wants to present all aspects of his or her personality fully to the eaxminer.
'Integration of Projective Techniques in the clinical case study.' In A. I. Rabin (Ed.), Assessment with projective techniques: A concise introduction (1981), 259. Cited in Donald J. Viglione and Bridget Rivera, 'Assessing Personality and Psychopathology with Projective Methods', in Irving B. Weiner et al., Handbook of Psychology (2003), 542.
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Let no one suppose that the words doctor and patient can disguise from the parties the fact that they are employer and employee.
In 'Preface on Doctors', The Doctor's Dilemma (1909, 1911), lxxxi.
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Let the surgeon take care to regulate the whole regimen of the patient's life for joy and happiness by promising that he will soon be well, by allowing his relatives and special friends to cheer him and by having someone tell him jokes, and let him be solaced also by music on the viol or psaltery. The surgeon must forbid anger, hatred, and sadness in the patient, and remind him that the body grows fat from joy and thin from sadness.
In James Joseph Walsh, Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 270.
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Let the young know they will never find a more interesting, more instructive book than the patient himself.
Attributed.
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Life is short, and the Art long; the occasion fleeting; experience fallacious, and judgment difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants, and externals cooperate.
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 192.
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Life is short, the Art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult. The physician must be ready, not only to do his duty himself, but also to secure the co-operation of the patient, of the attendants and of externals.
Aphorisms, in Hippocrates, trans. W. H. S. Jones (1931), Vol. 4, 99.
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Logic can be patient, for it is eternal.
Quoted without citation in Desmond MacHale, Comic Sections (1993), 146.
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M.D.—Make Do.— Quaint idea! … Work for the handicapped … who is handicapped, your patients, or you? Both. Helping the survival of the unfit.… With more to come. What in the world was the solution. Where to find a formula for head and heart too?
Quoted in M.C. Winternitz, 'Alan Gregg, Physician', Science (20 Dec 1957), 1279.
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Medicine may be defined as the art or the science of keeping a patient quiet with frivolous reasons for his illness and amusing him with remedies good or bad until nature kills him or cures him.
Ménagiana (1693).
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Medicine, poor science! Doctors, poor philosophers! Patients, poor victims!
…...
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Men cannot help feeling a little ashamed of their cousin-german the Ape. His close yet grotesque and clumsy semblance of the human form is accompanied by no gleams of higher instinct. Our humble friend the dog, our patient fellow-labourer the horse, are nearer to us in this respect. The magnanimous and sagacious elephant, doomed though he be to all fours, is godlike compared with this spitefully ferocious creature. Strangely enough, too, the most repulsive and ferocious of all apekind, the recently discovered Gorilla is, the comparative anatomist assures us, nearest to us all: the most closely allied in structure to the human form.
In 'Our Nearest Relation', All Year Round (28 May 1859), 1, No. 5, 112. Charles Dickens was both the editor and publisher of this magazine. The author of the article remains unknown. The articles were by custom printed without crediting the author. Biographers have been able to use extant office records to identify various authors of other articles, but not this specific one. Dickens and Richard Owen were friends; they read each other’s work. Owen is known to have found at least a little time to write a few articles for Dickens’ magazines. Owen had given a talk at the Royal Institution (4 Feb 1859) titled 'On the Gorilla.' This would suggest why Dickens may have had a definite interest in publishing on this subject, regardless of who in fact wrote the article.
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My final word, before I'm done,
Is “Cancer can be rather fun”—
Provided one confronts the tumour
with a sufficient sense of humour.
I know that cancer often kills,
But so do cars and sleeping pills;
And it can hurt till one sweats,
So can bad teeth and unpaid debts.
A spot of laughter, I am sure,
Often accelerates one's cure;
So let us patients do our bit
To help the surgeons make us fit.
'Cancer's a Funny Thing'. Quoted in Richard Dawkins, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (2008), 175-6.
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My friend was sick: I attended him.
He died; I dissected him.
Anonymous
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My imagination would never have served me as it has, but for the habit of commonplace, humble, patient, daily, toiling, drudging attention
The Homiletic Review, Vol. 83-84 (1922), Vol. 84, 290.
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My interest in the biology of tissue and organ transplantation arose from my [WW II] military experience at Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania … a major plastic surgical center. While there, I spent all my available spare time on the plastic surgical wards which were jammed with hundreds of battle casualties. I enjoyed talking to the patients, helping with dressings, and observing the results of the imaginative reconstructive surgical operations.
As a First Lieutenant with only a nine-month surgical internship, randomly assigned to VFGH to await overseas duty. In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 556.
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My life as a surgeon-scientist, combining humanity and science, has been fantastically rewarding. In our daily patients we witness human nature in the raw–fear, despair, courage, understanding, hope, resignation, heroism. If alert, we can detect new problems to solve, new paths to investigate.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 565.
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My opinion is, that more harm than good is done by physicians; and I am convinced, that, had I left my patients to nature, instead of prescribing drugs, more would have been saved.
Quoted by E.T.M. Hurlbut, 'Homeopathy, Hygiene, and Opium,' Address at Annual Meeting of the Nebraska State Homeopathic Medical Association, 19 May 1874. In William Riddle Childs, et al., Pamphlets - Homeopathic (1851), Vol. 6, 3.
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Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath.
'What We Owe to the Trees', Harper's New Monthly Magazine (Apr 1882), 46, No. 383, 686.
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Neurosis has an abosolute genius for malingering. There is no illness which cannot counterfeit perfectly … If it is capable of deceiving the doctor, how should it fail to deceive the patient.
'Le Côté de Guermantes', À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27).
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Never forget that it is not a pneumonia, but a pneumonic man who is your patient.
In Sir William Withey Gull and Theodore Dyke Acland (ed.), A Collection of the Published Writings of William Withey Gull (1896), xxiii.
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Newton could not admit that there was any difference between him and other men, except in the possession of such habits as … perseverance and vigilance. When he was asked how he made his discoveries, he answered, “by always thinking about them;” and at another time he declared that if he had done anything, it was due to nothing but industry and patient thought: “I keep the subject of my inquiry constantly before me, and wait till the first dawning opens gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.”
In History of the Inductive Sciences, Bk. 7, chap, 1, sect. 5.
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No one thinks of concealing the truth from a cardiac patient: there is nothing shameful about a heart attack. Cancer patients are lied to, not just because the disease is (or is thought to be) a death sentence, but because it is felt to be obscene—in the original meaning of that word: ill-omened, abominable, repugnant to the senses.
In Illness as a Metaphor (1978), 8,
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No physician is really good before he has killed one or two patients.
Anonymous
Hindu Proverb. In Colin Jarman, The Book of Poisonous Quotes (1993), 234.
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No physician, in so far as he is a physician, considers his own good in what he prescribes, but the good of his patient; for the true physician is also a ruler having the human body as a subject, and is not a mere money-maker.
Plato
In Plato and B. Jowett (trans.), The Dialogues of Plato (1875), Vol. 3, 211.
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Nurses, as well as midwives, ought to be of middle age, sober, patient, and discreet, able to bear fatigue and watching, free from external deformity, cutaneous eruptions, and inward complaints that may be troublesome or infectious.
In A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery (1766), 444.
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O you who believe!
Seek help in patience and prayer.
Truly! Allah is with the patient.
Quran
Surah al-Baqarah 2:153. Quoted in Kim Lim (ed.), 1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom: Words to Enrich, Inspire, and Guide Your Life (2014), 178
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Often the confidence of the patient in his physician does more for the cure of his disease than the physician with all his remedies.
Reasserting the statement by Avicenna.
In James Joseph Walsh, Old-Time Makers of Medicine (1911), 270.
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On the 20th of May 1747, I took twelve patients in the scurvy, on board the Salisbury at sea. Their cases were as similar as I could have them. They all in general had putrid gums, the spots and lassitude, with weakness of their knees. They lay together in one place, being a proper apartment for the sick in the fore-hold; and had one diet common to all, viz, water-gruel sweetened with sugar in the morning; fresh mutton-broth often times for dinner; at other times puddings, boiled biscuit with sugar, &c.; and for supper, barley and raisins, rice and currents, sago and wine, or the like.
Two of these were ordered each a quart of cider a-day. Two others took twenty-five gutta of elixir vitriol three times a-day, upon an empty stomach; using a gargle strongly acidulated with it for their mouths. Two others took two spoonfuls of vinegar three times a-day, upon an empty stomach; having their gruels and their other food well acidulated with it, as also the gargle for their mouth. Two of the worst patients, with the tendons in the ham rigid, (a symptom none of the rest had), were put under a course of sea-water. Of this they drank half a pint every day, and sometimes more or less as it operated, by way of gentle physics. The others had each two oranges and one lemon given them every day. These they eat with greediness, at different times, upon an empty stomach. They continued but six days under this course, having consumed the quantity that could be spared. The two remaining patients, took the bigness of a nutmeg three times a-day, of an electuary recommended by an hospital-surgeon, made of garlic, mustard-seed, rad. raphan. balsam of Peru, and gum myrrh; using for common drink, barley-water well acidulated with tamarinds; by a decoction of which, with the addition of cremor tartar, they were gently purged three or four times during the course.
The consequence was, that the most sudden and visible good effects were perceived from the use of the oranges and lemons; one of those who had taken them, being at the end of six days fit for duty. …
Next to the oranges, I thought the cider had the best effects.
A Treatise of the Scurvy (1753), 191-193. Quoted in Carleton Ellis and Annie Louise Macleod, Vital Factors of Foods: Vitamins and Nutrition (1922), 229-230.
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Only one rule in medical ethics need concern you - that action on your part which best conserves the interests of your patient.
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Our laboratory work involved close contact with many non-clinical scientists. Sir Peter Medawar, 1960 Nobel Laureate, was a frequent visitor to our lab and to the hospital. He once commented, after visiting an early renal transplant patient, that it was the first time he had been in a hospital ward.
In Tore Frängsmyr and Jan E. Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures: Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 556.
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Palliative care should be an integral part of cancer care and not be associated exclusively with terminal care. Many patients need it early in the course of their disease.
Anonymous
Improving the Quality of Cancer Care. A Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Cancer to the Chief Medical Officers of England and Wales (1995). Quoted in Jessica Corner and Christopher Bailey, Cancer Nursing (2001),543.
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Patients and their families will forgive you for wrong diagnoses, but will rarely forgive you for wrong prognoses; the older you grow in medicine, the more chary you get about offering iron clad prognoses, good or bad.
Anonymous
David Seegal, Journal of Chronic Diseases (1963), 16, 443.
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People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body, too. Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by color, and light, we do know this, that they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of color in the objects presented to patients, are actual means of recovery.
Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not (1860), 84.
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Physicians are some of them so pleasing and conformable to the humour of the patient, as they press not the true cure of the disease : and some other are so regular in proceeding according to art for the disease, as they respect not sufficiently the condition of the patient.
XXX. Of Regimen of Health,' Essays (1597). In Francis Bacon and Basil Montagu, The Works of Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England (1852), 39.
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Post-operatively the transplanted kidney functioned immediately with a dramatic improvement in the patient’s renal and cardiopulmonary status. This spectacular success was a clear demonstration that organ transplantation could be life-saving. In a way, it was spying into the future because we had achieved our long-term goal by bypassing, but not solving, the issue of biological incompatibility.
Referring to the pioneering first kidney transplant. It was well-matched since it was between twins. In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1990). Printed in Tore Frängsmyr and Jan Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1981-1990 (1993).
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Private patients, if they do not like me, can go elsewhere; but the poor devils in the hospital I am bound to take care of.
Stating the courtesy he felt obliged to give to charity patients.
In George Macilwain, Memoirs of John Abernethy (1854), 37.
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Psychoanalysis has changed American psychiatry from a diagnostic to a therapeutic science, not because so many patients are cured by the psychoanalytic technique, but because of the new understanding of psychiatric patients it has given us and the new and different concepts of illness and health.
News summaries 29 Apr 56
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Psychotherapy–the theory that the patient will probably get well anyhow, and is certainly a damn fool.
In A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949, 1956), 626.
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Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor. But if a man hasn’t got plenty of good common sense, the more science he has the worse for his patient.
'The Poet at the Breakfast-Table', Chapter 5. The Atlantic Monthly (May 1872), 29, 607.
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Science, regarded as the pursuit of truth, which can only be attained by patient and unprejudiced investigation, wherein nothing is to be attempted, nothing so minute as to be justly disregarded, must ever afford occupation of consummate interest, and subject of elevated meditation.
On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1858), 2-3.
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Signs and symptoms indicate the present, past and future states of the three states of the body (health, illness, neutrality). According to Galen, knowledge of the present state is of advantage only to the patient as it helps him to follow the proper course of management. Knowledge of the past state is useful only to the physician inasmuch as its disclosure by him to the patient brings him a greater respect for his professional advice. Knowledge of the future state is useful to both. It gives an opportunity to the patient to be forewarned to adopt necessary preventative measures and it enhances the reputation of the physician by correctly forecasting the future developments.
Avicenna
'The Signs and Symptoms (Diagnosis): General Remarks,' in The Canon of Medicine, adapted by L. Bakhtiar (1999), 259.
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So much goes into doing a transplant operation. All the way from preparing the patient, to procuring the donor. It's like being an astronaut. The astronaut gets all the credit, he gets the trip to the moon, but he had nothing to do with the creation of the rocket, or navigating the ship. He's the privileged one who gets to drive to the moon. I feel that way in some of these more difficult operations, like the heart transplant.
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Somewhere between 1900 and 1912 in this country, according to one sober medical scientist [Henderson] a random patient, with a random disease, consulting a doctor chosen at random had, for the first time in the history of mankind, a better than fifty-fifty chance of profiting from the encounter.
Anonymous
Quoted in New England Journal of Medicine (1964), 270, 449.
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Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of every one of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or losing a game of chess. Don't you think that we should all consider it to be a primary duty to learn at least the names and the moves of the pieces; to have a notion of a gambit, and a keen eye for all the means of giving and getting out of check? Do you not think that we should look with a disapprobation amounting to scorn upon the father who allowed his son, or the state which allowed its members, to grow up without knowing a pawn from a knight?
Yet, it is a very plain and elementary truth that the life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well the highest stakes are paid with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated—without haste, but without remorse.
Address to the South London Working Men’s College. 'A Liberal Education; and Where to Find It', in David Masson, (ed.), Macmillan’s Magazine (Mar 1868), 17, 369. Also in 'A Liberal Education and Where to Find it' (1868). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 3, 82.
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Teach me your mood,
O patient stars.
Who climb each night,
the ancient sky.
leaving on space no shade, no scars,
no trace of age, no fear to die.
…...
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The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
Attributed. Webmaster has found no other citation. See, for example, Bill Swainson, Encarta Book of Quotations (2000), 961.
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The best patient is a millionaire with a positive Wassermann [antibody test for syphilis]. In Carl Malmberg , 140 Million Patients (1947), 30. Medical proverb before the discovery of antibiotics.
Anonymous
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The bitterness of the potion, and the abhorrence of the patient are necessary circumstances to the operation. It must be something to trouble and disturb the stomach that must purge and cure it.
In Tryon Edwards (ed.), A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), 339.
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The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe; the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just and patient. But we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the slightest allowance for ignorance.
'A Liberal Education', Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews (1870). Collected in Science & Education: Essays (1893), 82.
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The custom of giving patients appointments weeks in advance, during which time their illness may become seriously aggravated, seems to me to fall short of the ideal doctor-patient relationship.
…...
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The diseases which are hard to cure in neighborhoods… are catarrh, hoarseness, coughs, pleurisy, consumption, spitting of blood, and all others that are cured not by lowering the system but by building it up. They are hard to cure, first, because they are originally due to chills; secondly, because the patient's system being already exhausted by disease, the air there, which is in constant agitation owing to winds and therefore deteriorated, takes all the sap of life out of their diseased bodies and leaves them more meager every day. On the other hand, a mild, thick air, without drafts and not constantly blowing back and forth, builds up their frames by its unwavering steadiness, and so strengthens and restores people who are afflicted with these diseases.
Vitruvius
In De Architectura, Book 1, Chap 6, Sec. 3. As translated in Morris Hicky Morgan (trans.), Vitruvius: The Ten Books on Architecture (1914), 25.
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The doctor knows that it is the prescription slip itself, even more than what is written on it, that is often the vital ingredient for enabling a patient to get rid of whatever is ailing him.
Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing (2005), 55.
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The doctor may also learn more about the illness from the way the patient tells the story than from the story itself.
…...
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The fact that your patient gets well does not prove that your diagnosis was correct.
…...
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The first [quality] to be named must always be the power of attention, of giving one's whole mind to the patient without the interposition of anything of oneself. It sounds simple but only the very greatest doctors ever fully attain it. … The second thing to be striven for is intuition. This sounds an impossibility, for who can control that small quiet monitor? But intuition is only interference from experience stored and not actively recalled. … The last aptitude I shall mention that must be attained by the good physician is that of handling the sick man's mind.
In 'Art and Science in Medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 98.
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The history of men of science has one peculiar advantage, as it shows the importance of little things in producing great results. Smeaton learned his principle of constructing a lighthouse, by noticing the trunk of a tree to be diminished from a curve to a cyclinder ... and Newton, turning an old box into a water-clock, or the yard of a house into a sundial, are examples of those habits of patient observation which scientific biography attractively recommends.
Pleasures, Objects, and Advantages of Literature (1855), 129.
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The ideal doctor is patient.
…...
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The invention of the differential calculus marks a crisis in the history of mathematics. The progress of science is divided between periods characterized by a slow accumulation of ideas and periods, when, owing to the new material for thought thus patiently collected, some genius by the invention of a new method or a new point of view, suddenly transforms the whole subject on to a higher level.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 217. Whitehead continued by quoting the poet, Percy Shelley, who compared the slow accumulation of thoughts leading to an avalanche following the laying down of a great truth. See the poetic quote beginning, “The sun-awakened avalanche…” on the Percy Shelley Quotations page.
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The laboratory was an unattractive half basement and low ceilinged room with an inner dark room for the galvanometer and experimental animals. It was dark, crowded with equipment and uninviting. Into it came patients for electrocardiography, dogs for experiments, trays with coffee and buns for lunch. It was hot and dusty in summer and cold in winter. True a large fire burnt brightly in the winter but anyone who found time to warm his backside at it was not beloved by [Sir Thomas] Lewis. It was no good to try and look out of the window for relaxation, for it was glazed with opaque glass. The scientific peaks were our only scenery, and it was our job to try and find the pathways to the top.
Magazine
'Tribute to Sir Thomas Lewis', University College Hospital Magazine (1955), 40, 71.
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The laws of Coexistence;—the adaptation of structure to function; and to a certain extent the elucidation of natural affinities may be legitimately founded upon the examination of fully developed species;—But to obtain an insight into the laws of development,—the signification or bedeutung, of the parts of an animal body demands a patient examination of the successive stages of their development, in every group of Animals.
'Lecture Four, 9 May 1837', The Hunterian Lectures in Comparative Anatomy, May-June 1837, ed. Phillip Reid Sloan (1992), 191.
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The native hospital in Tunis was the focal point of my research. Often, when going to the hospital, I had to step over the bodies of typhus patients who were awaiting admission to the hospital and had fallen exhausted at the door. We had observed a certain phenomenon at the hospital, of which no one recognized the significance, and which drew my attention. In those days typhus patients were accommodated in the open medical wards. Before reaching the door of the wards they spread contagion. They transmitted the disease to the families that sheltered them, and doctors visiting them were also infected. The administrative staff admitting the patients, the personnel responsible for taking their clothes and linen, and the laundry staff were also contaminated. In spite of this, once admitted to the general ward the typhus patient did not contaminate any of the other patients, the nurses or the doctors. I took this observation as my guide. I asked myself what happened between the entrance to the hospital and the wards. This is what happened: the typhus patient was stripped of his clothes and linen, shaved and washed. The contagious agent was therefore something attached to his skin and clothing, something which soap and water could remove. It could only be the louse. It was the louse.
'Investigations on Typhus', Nobel lecture, 1928. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1922-1941 (1965), 181.
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THE OATH. I swear by Apollo [the healing God], the physician and Aesclepius [son of Apollo], and Health [Hygeia], and All-heal [Panacea], and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation—to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further, from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!
The Genuine Works of Hippocrates, trans. Francis Adams (1886), Vol. 2, 344-5.
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The Ocean Health Index is like a thermometer of ocean health, which will allow us to determine how the patient is doing. The Index will be a measure of whether our policies are working, or whether we need new solutions.
As quoted in press release (14 Aug 2012), 'Ocean Health Index Provides First-Ever Global Benchmark of 171 Coastal Regions', on web page of Conservation International, conservation.org.
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The only English patients I have ever known refuse tea, have been typhus cases; and the first sign of their getting better was their craving again for tea.
'Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa for the Sick', Scientific American (2 Jul 1860), New Series, 3, No. 1, 3.
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The only weapon with which the unconscious patient can immediately retaliate upon the incompetent surgeon is hemorrhage.
Des MacHale, In Wit (2003), 163.
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The ordinary patient goes to his doctor because he is in pain or some other discomfort and wants to be comfortable again; he is not in pursuit of the ideal of health in any direct sense. The doctor on the other hand wants to discover the pathological condition and control it if he can. The two are thus to some degree at cross purposes from the first, and unless the affair is brought to an early and happy conclusion this diversion of aims is likely to become more and more serious as the case goes on.
Address, opening of 1932-3 session of U.C.H. Medical School (4 Oct 1932), 'Art and Science in Medicine', The Collected Papers of Wilfred Trotter, FRS (1941), 98.
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The patient does not care about your science; what he wants to know is, can you cure him?
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The patient has two sleeves, one containing a diagnostic and the other a therapeutic armamentarium; these sleeves should rarely be emptied in one move; keep some techniques in reserve; time your manoeuvres to best serve the status and special needs of your patient.
Chinese proverb.
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The physician should look upon the patient as a besieged city and try to rescue him with every means that art and science place at his command.
Attributed. Peter McDonald, In The Oxford Dictionary of Medical Quotations (2004), 2.
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The poor are my best patients. God pays for them.
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 94.
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The principles of medical management are essentially the same for individuals of all ages, albeit the same problem is handled differently in different patients. ... [just as] the principles of driving an automobile are uniform, but one drives in one manner on the New Jersey Turnpike and in another manner on a narrow, winding road in the Rocky Mountains.
Quoted in Joseph Earle Moore, The Neurologic and Psychiatric Aspects of the Disorders of Aging (1956), 247.
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The progress of Science consists in observing interconnections and in showing with a patient ingenuity that the events of this ever-shifting world are but examples of a few general relations, called laws. To see what is general in what is particular, and what is permanent in what is transitory, is the aim of scientific thought.
In An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 11.
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The psychiatric interviewer is supposed to be doing three things: considering what the patient could mean by what he says; considering how he himself can best phrase what he wishes to communicate to the patient; and, at the same time, observing the general pattern of the events being communicated. In addition to that, to make notes which will be of more than evocative value, or come anywhere near being a verbatim record of what is said, in my opinion is beyond the capacity of most human beings.
From The Psychiatric Interview (1954, 1970), 48.
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The risk of developing carcinoma of the lung increases steadily as the amount smoked increases. If the risk among non-smokers is taken as unity and the resulting ratios in the three age groups in which a large number of patients were interviewed (ages 45 to 74) are averaged, the relative risks become 6, 19, 26, 49, and 65 when the number of cigarettes smoked a day are 3, 10, 20, 35, and, say, 60—that is, the mid-points of each smoking group. In other words, on the admittedly speculative assumptions we have made, the risk seems to vary in approximately simple proportion with the amount smoked.
William Richard Shaboe Doll and Austin Bradford Hill (1897-1991 British medical statistician) 'Smoking and Carcinoma of the Lung', British Medical Journal, 1950, ii, 746.
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The safest thing for a patient is to be in the hands of a man engaged in teaching medicine. In order to be a teacher of medicine the doctor must always be a student.
Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic (1927).
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The sooner patients can be removed from the depressing influence of general hospital life the more rapid their convalescence.
Lancet (1916).
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The sum of human happiness would not necessarily be reduced if for ten years every physical and chemical laboratory were closed and the patient and resourceful energy displayed in them transferred to the lost art of getting on together and finding the formula for making both ends meet in the scale of human life.
In a speech to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Leeds, September 4, 1927.
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The surgeon is a man of action. By temperament and by training he prefers to serve the sick by operating on them, and he inwardly commiserates with a patient so unfortunate as to have a disease not suited to surgical treatment. Young surgeons, busy mastering the technicalities of the art, are particularly alert to seize every legitimate opportunity to practice technical maneuvers, the more complicated the better.
American Journal of Surgery.
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The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
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The trained nurse has given nursing the human, or shall we say, the divine touch, and made the hospital desirable for patients with serious ailments regardless of their home advantages.
Collected Papers of the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation (1913).
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The watchmaker to whom one gives a watch that does not run will take it all apart and will examine each of the pieces until he finds out which one is damaged. The physician to whom one presents a patient cannot dissect him to establish the diagnosis. The physicist resembles a doctor, not a watchmaker.
In Revue des Questions Scientifiques, 1897.
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Theories rarely arise as patient inferences forced by accumulated facts. Theories are mental constructs potentiated by complex external prods (including, in idealized cases, a commanding push from empirical reality) . But the prods often in clude dreams, quirks, and errors–just as we may obtain crucial bursts of energy from foodstuffs or pharmaceuticals of no objective or enduring value. Great truth can emerge from small error. Evolution is thrilling, liberating, and correct. And Macrauchenia is a litoptern.
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There are only two classes of mankind in the world - doctors and patients.
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There are some modern practitioners, who declaim against medical theory in general, not considering that to think is to theorize; and that no one can direct a method of cure to a person labouring under disease, without thinking, that is, without theorizing; and happy therefore is the patient, whose physician possesses the best theory.
Zoonomia, or, The Laws Of Organic Life (1801), Vol. 2, ix.
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There is only one cardinal rule: One must always listen to the patient.
Quoted by Walter Clemons, 'Listening to the Lost', Newsweek (20 Aug 1984).
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This is a mighty wonder: in the discharge from the lungs alone, which is not particularly dangerous, the patients do not despair of themselves, even although near the last.
Concerning Tuberculosis.
On the Causes and Symptoms of Acute Diseases, II, ii,18.
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To study the phenomenon of disease without books is to sail uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all.
Address for the Dedication of the New Building of the Boston Medical Library (12 Jan 1901). Printed as 'Books and Men', The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (17 Jan 1901), 144, No. 3, 60.
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Too often a sister puts all her patients back to bed as a housewife puts all her plates back in the plate-rack—to make a generally tidy appearance.
British Medical Journal (1947), 2, 967.
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Treat the patient, not the X-ray
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TZETZE, (or TSETSE) FLY, n. An African insect (Glossina morsitans) whose bite is commonly regarded as nature's most efficacious remedy for insomnia, though some patients prefer that of the American novelist (Mendax interminabilis.)
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  353.
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Unfortunately, only a small number of patients with peptic ulcer are financially able to make a pet of an ulcer.
Journal of the American Medical Association (1922).
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We are, of course, extremely concerned that if this did, in fact, happen, that there is going to be a tremendous public outcry, and we will be concerned with what the Congress does, … Obviously, we are concerned about there being a backlash against the medical applications of this technology, which have, of course, the potential to cure millions of patients.
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We must really agree with Bamberger, who thinks that the greater part of patients who die, of endocarditis even, have succumbed not to the disease, but to the remedy.
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What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient but restless mind, of sacrificing one’s ease or vanity, or uniting a love of detail to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely [and cheerfully].
In The Wish of His Life (1878), Vol. 1, 25. The ending "and cheerfully" is not part of the original text, though it is seen added in Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts: Being a Cyclopedia of Laconic Quotations from the Best Authors, Both Ancient and Modern (1891), 320. The original text ends “whistling the air of ‘Marlbrough’.”
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When a doctor arrives to attend some patient of the working class, he ought not to feel his pulse the moment he enters, as is nearly always done without regard to the circumstances of the man who lies sick; he should not remain standing while he considers what he ought to do, as though the fate of a human being were a mere trifle; rather let him condescend to sit down for awhile.
De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (1713) Trans. by W.C. Wright in A.L. Birmingham, Classics of Medicine Library (1983). Quoted in Edward J. Huth and T. J. Murray. Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2006), 288.
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When a doctor arrives to attend some patient of the working class...let him condescend to sit down...if not on a gilded chair...one a three-legged stool... He should question the patient carefully... So says Hippocrates in his work 'Affections.' I may venture to add one more question: What occupation does he follow?
De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (1713) Trans. by W.C. Wright in A.L. Birmingham, Classics of Medicine Library (1983). Quoted in Edward J. Huth and T. J. Murray. Medicine in Quotations: Views of Health and Disease Through the Ages (2006), 276.
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When a physician is called to a patient, he should decide on the diagnosis, then the prognosis, and then the treatment. … Physicians must know the evolution of the disease, its duration and gravity in order to predict its course and outcome. Here statistics intervene to guide physicians, by teaching them the proportion of mortal cases, and if observation has also shown that the successful and unsuccessful cases can be recognized by certain signs, then the prognosis is more certain.
From An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (1865), as translated by Henry Copley Greene (1957), 213.
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When Death lurks at the door, the physician is considered as a God. When danger has been overcome, the physician is looked upon as an angel. When the patient begins to convalesce, the physician becomes a mere human. When the physician asks for his fees, he is considered as the devil himself.
In Harper's Magazine (1931-32), 164, 512.
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When he can render no further aid, the physician alone can mourn as a man with his incurable patient. This is the physician's sad lot.
Attributed
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When men are engaged in war and conquest, the tools of science become as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child of three. We must not condemn man because his inventiveness and patient conquest of the forces of nature are being exploited for false and destructive purposes. Rather, we should remember that the fate of mankind hinges entirely upon man’s moral development.
In 'I Am an American' (22 Jun 1940), Einstein Archives 29-092. Excerpted in David E. Rowe and Robert J. Schulmann, Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb (2007), 470. The British Library Sound Archive holds a recording of this statement by Einstein. It was during a radio broadcast for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, interviewed by a State Department Official. Einstein spoke following an examination on his application for American citizenship in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war on Japan was still over a year in the future.
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When the disease is stronger than the patient, the physician will not be able to help him at all, and if the strength of the patient is greater than the strength of the disease, he does not need a physician at all. But when both are equal, he needs a physician who will support the patient’s strength and help him against the disease.
Rhazes
…...
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When the patient dies the kidneys may go to the pathologist, but while he lives the urine is ours. It can provide us day by day, month by month, and year by year, with a serial story of the major events going on within the kidney.
Glomerular Nephritis, Diagnosis and Treatment (1948), 2.
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When you see the natural and almost universal craving in English sick for their 'tea,' you cannot but feel that nature knows what she is about. ... [A] little tea or coffee restores them. ... [T]here is nothing yet discovered which is a substitute to the English patient for his cup of tea.
'Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa for the Sick', Scientific American (2 Jul 1860), New Series, 3, No. 1, 3.
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With terminal illness, your fate is sealed. Morally, we're more comfortable with a situation where you don't cause death, but you hasten it. We think that's a bright line.
Comparing the U.S. with Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal for patients suffering 'intolerable health problems.'
Quoted in Amanda Ripley, 'True Freedom', Time magazine (20 Apr 2003).
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You are in service to your patients, and a servant should know his place.
In Letters to a Young Doctor (1982), 53.
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You Surgeons of London, who puzzle your Pates,
To ride in your Coaches, and purchase Estates,
Give over, for Shame, for your Pride has a Fall,
And ye Doctress of Epsom has outdone you all.

Dame Nature has given her a doctor's degree,
She gets all the patients and pockets the fee;
So if you don't instantly prove it a cheat,
She'll loll in a chariot whilst you walk the street.
Cautioning doctors about the quack bone-setter, Mrs. Mapp (d. 22 Dec 1737), who practiced in Epsom town once a week, arriving in a coach-and-four.
Anonymous
Verses from a song in a comedy at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, called The Husband's Relief, or The Female Bone-setter and the Worm-doctor. In Robert Chambers, The Book of Days (1832), 729.
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[Certain students] suppose that because science has penetrated the structure of the atom it can solve all the problems of the universe. ... They are known in every ... college as the most insufferable, cocksure know-it-alls. If you want to talk to them about poetry, they are likely to reply that the "emotive response" to poetry is only a conditioned reflex .... If they go on to be professional scientists, their sharp corners are rubbed down, but they undergo no fundamental change. They most decidedly are not set apart from the others by their intellectual integrity and faith, and their patient humility in front of the facts of nature.... They are uneducated, in the fullest sense of the word, and they certainly are no advertisement for the claims of science teachers.
In Science is a Sacred Cow (1950), 18-19.
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[For] those suffering under the thraldom of the vice [of opium eating] … it is well to avoid undue harshness with the patient; and it should be carefully remembered, that in many instances the sufferers are more objects of pity than of blame.
In 'Clinical Lecture On The Treatment Of The Habit Of Opium-Eating', The British Medical Journal (15 Feb 1868), 1, No. 372, 137.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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- 90 -
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- 80 -
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- 40 -
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