My recent experience with the marvels of physic suggests that not much has changed since Leo Tolstoy wrote in Book III, Part One, Chapter 15 of War and Peace:

Natasha's illness was so serious that, fortunately for her and for her parents, all thought of what had caused it—her conduct and the breaking off of her engagement—faded into the background. It was impossible for them to consider how far she was to blame for what had happened while she was so ill that she could not eat or sleep, was growing visibly thinner, coughing, and, as the doctors gave them to understand, was in danger. They could think of nothing but how to make her well again. Doctors came to see her singly and in consultation, talked a great deal in French, German, and Latin, criticized one another, prescribed the most diverse remedies applicable to every disease known to them, but the very simple idea never occurred to any of them that they could not know what Natasha was suffering from, as no illness afflicting any living person can ever be known, for each living being has his own peculiarities, and whatever his ailment, it is always peculiar to himself, a new, complex malady unknown to medicine—not a disease of the lungs, liver, skin, heart, nerves, and so on, as described in medical books, but a disease consisting of one of the innumerable combinations of the disorders of these organs. This simple thought could not occur to the doctors (any more than it could occur to a sorcerer that he cannot work charms) because the practice of medicine was their lifework, they received money for it, and had spent the best years of their lives in it. But the chief reason for this thought not entering their minds was that they saw they were unquestionably useful, which in fact they were, to the whole Rostov family. Their usefulness did not consist in making the patient swallow substances for the most part harmful (the harm being scarcely perceptible as they were administered in small doses), but they were useful, necessary, indispensible, because they satisfied a moral need of the patient and of those who loved her, which is why there will always be pseudohealers, wise women, homeopaths, and allopaths. They satisfied that eternal human need for hope of relief, for sympathy, for taking action, which is felt in time of suffering. They satisfied the eternal human need that is seen in its most elementary form in children—the need to have the hurt place rubbed. A child hurts himself and at once runs to the arms of his mother or nurse to have the hurt place kissed or rubbed. He cannot believe that the strongest and wisest of his people have no remedy for his pain. And the hope of relief and the mother's expression of sympathy while she rubs the bump comforts him. The doctors were of use to Natasha because they rubbed her "bobo" and assured her that it would soon be over if the coachman went to the chemist's in the Arbat and got some powders and pills in pretty boxes for a ruble and seventy kopecks, and if, without fail, she took these powders dissolved in boiled water at intervals of two hours, neither more nor less.

(from the Ann Dunnigan translation, 1968; cf. TruthInBattle (11 Feb 2001), YouAreExtraordinary (7 Jul 2002), OozeOnVerst (22 Sep 2004), UntutoredVoice (3 Nov 2004), BodyMnemonic (4 Dec 2004), PerfectCommunication (14 Feb 2005), LadderOfLife (10 Apr 2005), BeaconOfHope (17 Apr 2005), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicScience - TopicHumor - 2005-04-29

(correlates: LastManStanding, SkippingAhead, UnconsciousAction, ...)