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Determinism and Humanism in Modern Medicine

Eugene D. Robin, MD
JAMA. 1978;240(21):2273-2275. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290210055026.
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MODERN western medicine grew from two separate philosophical roots—scientific determinism and humanism. The former, based on the doctrine that every experiment done under the same conditions produces the same results, provides the basis of much of modern medicine. It has led to the use of the laboratory, to clinical investigation, and to the development of diagnostic and therapeutic technology. It also determines the manner in which basic and clinical sciences are currently taught in medical schools.

Roots of Modern Medicine  Scientific determinism is indispensable in approaching patient treatment. However, it has important limitations. Many diseases are not well understood. Moreover, there are biologic variations in patients and technical variations in data collection.The second root of modern western medicine, humanism, is based on the principle that the proper concern of man is man. It is a more ancient basis for the physician's role than scientific determinism. Originating early in the


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