In the article published at The Staten Island Advance, Dennis Bloomfield, M.D. (who describes the start of his career prior to 1950s!) reminds us that the magic touch is disappearing:
But in my mind, the very technology that propelled American medicine to the forefront is changing the methods of teaching and the expectations of both patient and doctor, no all to the good.
The cost of the CAT scans, MRIs, internal pacemakers, kidney dialysis, coronary artery angioplasty and surgery — and the list goes on and on — is becoming prohibitive in this constricting economy and defacto rationing of medical services, so obvious in Canada, is heading south. Physicians are losing their confidence in their physical examination capabilities and are more inclined to send patients for expensive and time consuming tests, performed by machines and reported by doctors who never see the patients, than by undertaking meaningful histories and hands-on examinations.
The practice of medicine is losing that magical and therapeutic special human relationship between doctor and patient and there is no time in medical school, with so much to learn, to imbue that relationship with any sort of value. It is forecast that, in just a few years, surgeons will have lost the skill to examine patients to make diagnosies and will feel and be taught that laboratory tests are not only good enough but that hands-on examination is not worthwhile.
In the distant past, medical diagnosis and treatment was mired in religious incantations and mythical practices. In the near future, it might well be just as much in trouble in the hands of fantastic but inhuman, cold machines. As in just about every aspect of life, the good old days seem always to be in the past.
The other scary aspect not thought through in the article: dehumanizing technology prolongs lives, and so the longer-living patients suffer the absence of the magic touch for a longer time. Ha!