The Quote Garden

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Quotations on Medical Subjects

In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men. ~Cicero

My doctor is nice; every time I see him, I'm ashamed of what I think of doctors in general. ~Mignon McLaughlin (1913–1983), The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966, © Thomas Paine McLaughlin

Better name for the general practitioner might be multispecialist. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

People pay the doctor for his trouble; for his kindness they still remain in his debt. ~Seneca

So neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul; and this is the reason why the cure of many diseases is unknown to the physicians, because they are ignorant of the whole, which ought to be studied also; for the part can never be well unless the whole is well... For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the soul from the body. ~Plato

The only equipment lack in the modern hospital? Somebody to meet you at the entrance with a handshake! ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

When in doubt as to the applicability of a disinfectant, use soap and water. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

There is no medicine so beneficial to nerves and brain as a good night's sleep... ~The Philistine, 1906  [Grape-Nuts advertisement —tg]

The civilized bowel is so sensitive that an anatomic student from Mars descending into one of our big cities might easily be misled into concluding that the human nervous system is centered in the abdomen... Civilization's many people who wear their gastrointestinal tract like a millstone around their necks need no explanation for this curious association... They sicken under daily occupational stresses and sometimes balk internally before breakfast. They are not cowards but victims of a group of functional disorders which Dr. Harry Beckman of Marquette University sums up under the heading of "colon consciousness." ~Greer Williams, "The Melancholy Colon," in Hygeia: The Health Magazine of the American Medical Association, 1942

Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit, – Life!
~Emily Dickinson

When you no longer know what headache, heartache, or stomachache means without cistern punctures, electrocardiograms and six x-ray plates, you are slipping. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Man may be the captain of his fate, but he is also the victim of his blood sugar. ~Dr. Wilfrid G. Oakley (1905–1998), English physician and pioneer in clinical care of diabetes

Treat the patient, not the X-ray. ~James M. Hunter, 1964

Never forget that it is not a pneumonia, but a pneumonic man who is your patient. ~William Withey Gull (1816–1890)

It is not a case we are treating; it is a living, palpitating, alas, too often suffering fellow creature. ~John Brown

It is more important to know what kind of a patient has the disease than what kind of a disease the patient has. ~Andrew R. Robinson, 1894, paraphrased, see

A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more even than the whole man — he must view the man in his world. ~Harvey Cushing

Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants. ~William Osler

I knew a very clever physician, of large dispensary and hospital practice, who invariably began his examination of each patient with "Put your finger where you be bad." That man would never waste his time with collecting inaccurate information from nurse or patient. Leading questions always collect inaccurate information. ~Florence Nightingale, "Observation of the Sick," Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not, 1860

Health indeed is a precious thing, to recover and preserve which we will undergo any misery, drink bitter potions, freely give our goods: restore a man to his health, his purse lies open to thee, bountiful he is, thankful and beholding to thee... ~Democritus Junior (Robert Burton), The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621

Get your money when the patient is in pain. ~Proverb

I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for. ~James H. Boren

A hospital should also have a recovery room adjoining the cashier's office. ~Francis O'Walsh, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1962

I wondher why ye can always read a doctor's bill an' ye niver can read his purscription. F'r all ye know, it may be a short note to th' druggist askin' him to hit ye on th' head with a pestle. ~Finley Peter Dunne, "Mr. Dooley on Drugs," in McPike's Bi-Monthly, 1907

In the sick room, ten cents' worth of human understanding equals ten dollars' worth of medical science. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Dr. Wentworth's... skill consisted in persuading men to get well. Sickness is very largely the want of will. Everything is brain. There is thought and feeling not only, but will; and will includes in it far more than mental philosophers think. It acts universally, now as upon mind, and then just as much upon the body. It is another name for life-force... To array a man's mind and will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine. Inspire in men courage and purpose, and the mind-power will cast out disease. ~Henry Ward Beecher, "Wandering Thoughts," Norwood; or, Village Life in New England, 1867

I learned a long time ago that minor surgery is when they do the operation on someone else, not you. ~Bill Walton

We are in the age of M.D., medical darkness, which seeks legislative protection from the light. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

Allopathy failed ridiculously; but it added presumption to its ignorance by ridiculing — like an overgrown bully — every system tried by men not Allopathic. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867  [a little altered —tg]

I have a special pigeon... preventive medicine. Most good doctors, especially when they're young, have private dreams — that's the best part of them; sometimes, though, those get over-professionalized and strangulated... All good doctors must be primarily enthusiasts. They must have, like writers and painters and priests, a sense of vocation — a deep-rooted, unsentimental desire to do good. Well, obviously one way of preventing disease is worth fifty ways of curing it — that's where my ideal comes in — preventive medicine isn't anything to do with medicine at all, really — it's concerned with conditions, living conditions and common sense and hygiene. ~Noël Coward, Still Life, 1935

America does not have a health care system; what modern medicine has created is an illness maintenance system. ~Morris Hyman, M.D.

Nowadays the clinical history too often weighs more than the man. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

When a doctor has pulled you through why you always got a warm place in your heart for him. ~Will Rogers

He who physics himself poisons a fool. ~Proverb

Nine times out of ten a case seen early is a case half-cured. ~Woods Hutchinson, A.M., M.D. (1862–1930), "Why Not Make Contract Practice Universal?," 1909

By chase our long-lived fathers earn'd their food,
Toil strung the nerves, and purified the blood;
But we, their sons, a pamper'd race of men,
Are dwindled down to threescore years and ten.
Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught.
The wise, for cure, on exercise depend:
God never made his work for man to mend.
~John Dryden

Doctors think a lot of patients are cured who have simply quit in disgust. ~Don Herold, Strange Bedfellows: My Crazy-quilt Memoirs, Life-maxims and What-not, 1930

In the nineteenth century men lost their fear of God and acquired a fear of microbes. ~Author unknown, c. 1930s

A half doctor near is better than a whole one far away. ~German proverb

No doctor is better than three. ~German proverb

...symptoms, then, are in reality nothing but the cry from suffering organs. ~Jean-Martin Charcot, M.D. (1825–1893), translated by Leigh H. Hunt, M.D.

To medical men we entrust the sacred deposit of life and health. ~Aculeus, Letters to Dr. Rowley, 1805  [a little altered —tg]

Asthma is a disease that has practically the same symptoms as passion except that with asthma it lasts longer. ~Author unknown, quoted in British Journal of Hospital Medicine, 1992

The physician should look upon the patient as a besieged city and try to rescue him with every means that art and knowledge place at his command. ~Alexander of Tralles (c.565–605)

#WhenIWasYourAge: People were never "living with their disease." We cured them. Or they died from it. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014

Where a man feels pain he lays his hand. ~Dutch proverb  [Quoted in Henry G. Bohn, A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, 1857 —tg]

There are in America about fifty million people who, from time to time, set up chemical explosions in their internal economy in the hope that good health will follow. The worst about medicine is that one kind makes another necessary. ~Elbert Hubbard, 1908

All the symptoms of my illness were gone... The adrenaline had short-circuited my fever. I felt more alert than I had ever been. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018  [This happens to me pretty much every time I go to the doctor for a problem. My white coat anxiety's dopamine and epinephrine surges make me feel great, thereby looking to my doctor like I'm a liar and then as soon as I get home and relax the symptoms or pain come flooding back! –tg]

Inflamation is only a brisk fight between carbon and oxygen. ~Alonzo Clark, M.D. (1807–1887)

The physicians here are the errantest charlatans in Europe, or the most ignorant of all pretending fools — I withdrew what was left of me out of their hands, and recommended my affairs entirely to Dame Nature — She (dear goddess) has saved me... and I begin to have a kind of enthusiasm now in her favour, and in my own... ~Laurence Sterne, letter to J. H. S. Esq., 1762

...generally speaking, the benefit of medicine, or medical advice is very much overrated. Nature's medicines are simple food, nursing, air, rest, cheerful encouragement, and the like... The land is too full of poisonous medicines and incompetent doctors — the less you have to do with them the better. ~Mose Velsor (Walt Whitman), "Manly Health and Training," New York Atlas, 1858 December 26th

...there is no medicine that will reduce fat... Still, there is a remedy for the victim of superabundance of fat, and a safe one, but it is dietetic. Food has been the source of his disease, and food can be made to cure it... ~N. E. Yorke-Davies, "Living to Eat and Eating to Live," 1891

The patient has the right to accept your advice or to ignore it. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Treatment that weakens or lowers the system, in an inverse ratio strengthens the disease. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867  [a little altered —tg]

Whatever State of the Human Body doth disorder the Vital, the Natural, or even the Animal Functions of the same is called a Disease. And that part of the Science or Art of Physick, which teacheth how to find out the Disease actually afflicting the Patient, and how to cure the same, is called The Practice of Physick. A Cure is the Changing of a Disease into Health. ~Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738)

God heals, and the Physician hath the thanks. ~Jacula Prudentum: or, Outlandish Proverbs, Sentences, &c., selected by George Herbert, 1651

At the mouth of the Kennebec, an addition was made to our party, an elderly man. His tall, lank form and rubicund face, which had received the most glowing tints either from the sun or the brandy bottle for he had evidently been exposed to both, excited the curious gaze of all on board of our boat. He called himself a "nateral physician," otherwise an herb doctor, and was returning from his annual pilgrimage to the sea-shore, deeply laden with a stock of simples, which he was carrying home. He soon made known to us his character, by waging a furious war against the whole system of modern therapeutics. "It is a tarnal poison, sure to kill, and the physic craft know it. If war has killed its thousands, mercury has carried off its tens of thousands. Nothing saved my life but a naterally strong constitution, and a free use of herbs. These are the only safe remedies for all diseases. Nater is the best teacher of medicine, after all." ~"Herb Doctor & His Nateral Physic," c. 1831  [a little altered —tg]

Diagnosis is not the end, but the beginning of practice. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

A disease known is half cured. ~Proverb

The physicians who have most benefited mankind have been neither rationalistic nor empirical by pre-eminence, but a fair mixture of both; for faith and knowledge lean largely upon each other in the practice of medicine. ~Peter Mere Latham (1789–1875)

Drugs are of priceless value when needed, but they are at best emergency measures of most temporary utility... The more effective they are in the right place, the more harmful in the wrong one. ~Woods Hutchinson, A.M., M.D. (1862–1930), "The Dawn of the New Doctor," Civilization and Health, 1914

A man who cannot work without his hypodermic needle is a poor doctor. The amount of narcotic you use is inversely proportional to your skill. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

...scarcely a week passes without my being profoundly shocked by the seemingly light-hearted manner in which members of the profession throw 5-grain tablets at their patients, as though they were dealing with confetti at a carnival. ~Leonard Williams, M.D., Middle Age and Old Age, 1925

Disease often tells its secrets in a casual parenthesis. ~Wilfred Trotter (1872–1939), quoted in Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations, 1968

May medicine perhaps be polluting the organism with its synthetics in the same manner in which we have come to understand the pollution of our external environment by modern industry? ~Morris Hyman, M.D., "The Inquiry Begins," Congenital Alterable Transmissible Asymmetry: The Spiritual Meaning of Disease and Science, 1970

Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it. ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth, c.1605  [V, 3, Macbeth]

Dr. Tilden is... a medical heretic. He has broken away entirely from the tenets of the regular school of medicine and burnt the bridges behind him: he does not resort to medicine as a cure for sickness, but cures by correcting the patient's diet and other habits of living. ~Helen Sayr Gray

Diagnosis is one of the commonest diseases. ~Karl Kraus (1874–1936), quoted in Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations, 1968

And lo, the Hospital, gray, quiet, old,
Where life and death like friendly chafferers meet.
~William Ernest Henley, "I: Enter Patient," In Hospital

Behold me waiting—waiting for the knife....
The thick, sweet mystery of chloroform,
The drunken dark, the little death-in-life....
[F]ace to face with chance, I shrink a little:
My hopes are strong, my will is something weak.
...I am ready
But, gentlemen my porters, life is brittle:
You carry Cæsar and his fortunes—steady!
~William Ernest Henley, "IV: Before," In Hospital

[T]hey stretch you on a table.
Then they bid you close your eyelids,
And they mask you with a napkin,
And the anæsthetic reaches
Hot and subtle through your being.
~William Ernest Henley, "V: Operation," In Hospital

Many a man in good position of life spends, in luxurious living and doctoring, as much as would keep half-a-dozen families in comfort and health; the four heavy meals per day, wines and spirits, highly-seasoned dishes, the excessive use of warm baths instead of cold, frequent driving when a brisk walk would do much more good, the unseasonable hours of retiring, the late hours of rising — all will produce an inflammatory state of blood, and diseased action of every organ, the stomach, the liver, the heart, the kidneys, etc. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867  [a little altered —tg]

Observation, Reason, Human Understanding, Courage; these make the physician. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Each patient ought to feel somewhat the better after the physician's visit, irrespective of the nature of the illness. ~Warfield Theobald Longcope, M.D.

Symptoms which cannot be readily marshalled into line must be credited to the nerves. ~Alonzo Clark, M.D. (1807–1887)

God and the Doctor we alike adore
But only when in danger, not before;
The danger o'er, both are alike requited,
God is forgotten, and the Doctor slighted.
~Robert Owen

Physicians and politicians resemble one another in this respect, that some defend the constitution, and others destroy it. ~Acton; or, The Circle of Life, 1849

X-RAYS  A penetrating illuminant used by a Doctor for locating money on a patient's person. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic. ~Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973

About the only thing that American patent medicines do not claim to cure is the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. ~Mary Wilson Little, Reveries of a Paragrapher, 1897

A smart mother makes often a better diagnosis than a poor doctor. ~August Bier (1861–1949), quoted in Maurice B. Strauss, Familiar Medical Quotations, 1968

One doctor makes work for another. ~English proverb

Medicine, the only profession that labours incessantly to destroy the reason for its own existence. ~James Bryce (1838–1922)

Our profession is the only one which works unceasingly to annihilate itself. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.
~Emily Dickinson, c. 1860

ALLOPATHY  From Eng. all, everybody, and Grk. pathos, pain. Pain for everybody. HOMŒPATHY From Grk. homoios, same, and pathos. Pain, just the same. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

HYGIENE.  Bacteriology made moral... ~H. L. Mencken

Medicine is the one place where all the show is stripped off the human drama. You, as doctors, will be in a position to see the human race stark naked — not only physically, but mentally and morally as well. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

The minister sees them half undressed; the doctor sees them naked. They lie to the minister; they masquerade before the lawyer; they cannot deceive the discerning physician. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

There is no curing a sick man who believes himself to be in health. ~Henri Frédéric Amiel, 1877

Bedside manners are no substitute for the right diagnosis. ~Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. ~Erma Bombeck

There isn't much FUN in physic, but a good deal of physic in fun. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

Thy doctor, that he may assuage the pain
Of thy sore throat, which a sharp cough doth strain,
Prescribes thee honey, sweet-meats, luscious pies,
Or what e'er else stills fretful children's cries;
Yet leav'st thou not thy coughing: now we see
'Tis no sore throat, but sweet tooth troubles thee.
~Martial, "On Parthenopæus," translated by Edward Sherburne, 1600s

Since the development of bacteriology, many have been inclined to forget that, as it takes two to make a quarrel, so it takes two to make a disease, the microbe and its host. There is a constant struggle between disease germs and the bodies of animals and of human beings that they invade. There is also a tendency for an equilibrium to become established. The germs kill off the most susceptible and immunize the more resistant. ~Charles V. Chapin, M.D.

      A true science of health... sees that life is all of one piece, and that fullness of life, which is the rational goal alike of human effort and of Nature's long evolutionary travail, cannot be attained by ignoring either its mental or its physical aspects...
      Dis-ease is inharmony, the willful or ignorant struggle in opposition to the Cosmic order. Disease is war with the laws of our being, and all war, as a great general has said, is hell. ~Lewis G. Janes, "The Unity of Life," Health and a Day, 1901

No man is a good doctor who has never been sick himself. ~Chinese proverb

The best surgeon is he that has been well hacked himself. ~Proverb

Presumptions are of vast importance in medicine, as in law. A man is presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. A medicine — that is, a noxious agent — should always be presumed to be hurtful. It always is directly harmful; it may sometimes be indirectly beneficial. If this presumption were established, and disease always assumed to be the innocent victim of circumstances, and not punishable by medicines, that is, noxious agents, or poisons, until the contrary was shown, we should not so frequently hear the remark that, on the whole, more harm than good is done by medication. Excepting opium, which the Creator himself seems to prescribe; wine; a few specific drugs used sparingly by wise physicians; and the vapors which produce the miracle of anæsthesia, I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind, — and all the worse for the fishes. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, M.D., "Currents and Counter-Currents in Medical Science," address delivered before the Massachusetts Medical Society, 1860  [a little altered —tg]

Only one rule in medical ethics need concern you: that action on your part which best conserves the interest of your patient. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

When I am well I josh the doc, and say his pills are made of chalk, which never cured a human ache; that all his science is a fake... But when my organs all go wrong, and I'm no longer hale and strong, but doubled over with grievous pains, clear from my fetlocks to my brains, the doctor is my only hope; I clamor for his pills and dope. And if he brings his saw and spade, and says he thinks he'll have to wade all through my system with the same, I say, "Go on, and hew my frame!" And when I'm lying on my bed, with poultices upon my head, I murmur softly to the nurse, "The good old doc no more I'll curse! His science kept me from the grave, and after this I will behave." ~Walt Mason

It would be like the gentleman who imagined he had many physical ailments and he read all the circulars of patent medicines and all medical reports and prescribed for himself, and a medical friend said: "I am afraid if you are not careful some of these times you will die of a misprint." ~W.W. Farnsworth, "Horticulture: Past, Present and Future," 1911

Dying of a misprint was the fate predicted by a certain medical professor for a patient who persisted in treating himself by means of the prescriptions he found in medical textbooks. The patient might well have retorted that he was more likely to die of an illegibility in the handwriting of a physician, whose prescription could not be properly deciphered by the dispensing druggist. We are not aware that anybody ever did actually die of a misprint in a textbook; we have authentic instances of deaths due to badly-written prescriptions. ~Multiplex Hammond Writing Machine ad, "Department of Progressive Advertisers," The American Journal of Clinical Medicine, May 1918

When fate arrives the physician becomes a fool. ~Arabic proverb, quoted in J. Long, Eastern Proverbs and Emblems, 1881

The medical errors of one century constitute the popular faith of the next. ~Alonzo Clark, M.D. (1807–1887)

An artificial mode of living is the primary predisposing cause of disease. An artificial and elaborate system of treating disease the means of not only perpetuating, but creating, new ones. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., "Orthodox Medicine worse than Failure," Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867

To the question as to preventing disease, we are not far wrong in stating, that the practice of producing disease is much more in vogue than the study of how to prevent it. The remedies adopted are insufficient not only to arrest disease, but the administration of the so-called Allopathic remedies are actually dangerous to life and injurious to the constitution, inasmuch as they all have a tendency to weaken the system, already debilitated by disease, and establish, therefore, the strength of the latter. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., "Orthodox Medicine worse than Failure," Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867

Everything is so expensive. What hospitals really need is cheaper equipment — like an X-ray machine that takes four poses for a quarter. ~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984

Toxicology, making search for the substances in which it deals, after their application to the body, has traced and found some of them deposited and at rest within the tissues, and some moving and circulating with the blood. Thus it has disclosed a new sphere of their operations. And as of many poisons, so of many medicines; for poisons and medicines are oftentimes the same substances given with different intents; and, being the same, their operations, whether for evil or for good, must, one would think, be always in the same sphere. ~Peter Mere Latham (1789–1875) a hospital there is neither wind nor weather, sunrise nor moonset, but only a strange intermediate stage between life and death. ~Hal Borland, This Hill, This Valley, 1957

I will lift mine eyes unto the pills. Almost everyone takes them, from the humble aspirin to the multi-coloured, king-sized three deckers, which put you to sleep, wake you up, stimulate and soothe you all in one. It is an age of pills. ~Malcolm Muggeridge, 1962

Best doctor in the world is the Veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what's the matter. He's just got to know. ~Will Rogers

MEDICINE — In medicine, the Materia Media of twenty-five years ago is obsolete. Good doctors no longer treat symptoms; less medicine is the rule and more fresh air and exercise. The influence of mind over matter is everywhere acknowledged, and to find a cathartic that will rid us of hate, fear, worry, jealousy, prejudice and foolish pride is the still-hunt of every good Son of St. Luke. The surgeon's knife is not nearly so popular as it was five years ago. Psychology in therapeutics is taught in the medical schools. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," is no longer disputed. ~Elbert Hubbard, 1906

"A merry laugh doeth good like a medicine," said Solomon a thousand years before Christ. And today if we laughed more we would need medicine less. Aye, if we mixed laughter, love and work in the right proportion, medicine would be but a dream of things that once were. ~Elbert Hubbard

The medical fledglings... diagnose the cases and straightaway give the poor patient a repository, a suppository, a supposition, a sedition, a sedative, a stimulant, a pastelle, a capsule, a bolus or an early riser. They shove things down your throat, rub stuff on you, inject things into you and cut things out of you — all in the name of harmony and happiness. ~Elbert Hubbard, The Doctors: A Satire in Four Seizures, 1909

A surgeon should be young, a physician old. ~Proverb

Every illness is a factor simple or complex, which is multiplied by a second factor, invariably complex, — the individual who is suffering from it, so the result is a special problem, demanding a special solution... The principal grievance which I have against the doctors is that they neglect the real problem, which is to seize the unity of the individual who claims their care... a doctor who does not read you to the bottom is ignorant of essentials. To me the ideal doctor would be a man endowed with profound knowledge of life and of the soul, intuitively divining any suffering or the disorder of whatever kind, and restoring peace by his mere presence. Such a doctor is possible, but the greater number of them lack... intuition and sympathy. ~Henri Frédéric Amiel, 1873

      The other day, when we moved, we went through our family medicine chest to see what we could throw away. It was like turning back the pages of history...
      Family life really centers around the medicine chest, rather than around the hearth, as the poets would have it. Families really become families by virtue of the cuts, bruises, and sick spells they have together. It is no insult to home to say that home is where the laxative bottle is. ~Don Herold, "The Family Medicine Chest," bigger & better, 1925

We often hear of hard work killing people, but as a physician I have carefully looked into a number of these cases and have never found one which satisfied me as representing exhaustion due to hard work. Insidious kidney disease, rheumatic heart disease, the infections of which pneumonia is a typical example, all these have been the causes of death and not hard work, and they may come to any of us. They are just as much accidents as any other of the mischances of life, for it is as dangerous to be run into by a microbe as by a trolley car. Using the will in life to do all the work possible only gives life and gives it more abundantly, and people may rust out, that is be hurt by rest, much sooner than they will wear out. ~James J. Walsh, M.D., "The Will in Life," Health Through Will Power, 1919

One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicines. ~William Osler

I am thankful that the good God creates us all ignorant. I am glad that when we change His plans in this regard, we have to do it at our own risk. It is a gratification to me to know that I am ignorant of art, and ignorant also of surgery. Because people who understand art find nothing in pictures but blemishes, and surgeons and anatomists see no beautiful women in all their lives, but only a ghastly stack of bones with Latin names to them, and a network of nerves and muscles and tissues inflamed by disease. The very point in a picture that fascinates me with its beauty, is to the cultured artist a monstrous crime against the laws of coloring; and the very flush that charms me in a lovely face, is, to the critical surgeon, nothing but a sign hung out to advertise a decaying lung. Accursed be all such knowledge. I want none of it. ~Mark Twain, 1867

The specialist is too commonly hypertrophied in one direction and atrophied in all the rest. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Dr Steele:  Joe, what do you know about brain surgery?
Dr Carter:  To go inside of a human being's skull and tinker with the machinery that makes the whole works go, that is romance, isn't it?
~Dark Victory, 1939, written by Casey Robinson, based on a 1932 play In Time's Course by George Brewer, Jr. & Bertram Bloch

Did you ever have the measles, and if so, how many? ~Artemus Ward, c. 1860

Surgery is the cry of defeat in medicine. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

The practice of medicine is a thinker's job, the practice of surgery a plumber's. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

The only weapon with which the unconscious patient can immediately retaliate upon the incompetent surgeon is hemorrhage. ~William Stewart Halsted, "The Effect of Ligation of the Common Iliac Artery on the Circulation and Function of the Lower Extremity," Bulletin of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1912

A sweating ovary or a sick prostate explains most history. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

That video of athlete's foot went fungal. I mean, viral. ~S. A. Sachs

The choleric drinks, the melancholic eats, the phlegmatic sleeps. ~Proverb

Believe in the reasonable decency of the brethren; patients are not stolen — they run away. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

That slicker with the bedside manner needs watching. He's better! ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

However ill it may sound, you must not be too scientific. And this is why. Because you will have to deal more with the unknown than with the known. And science is extremely bad at dealing with the unknown. Science teaches you to walk firmly on solid grounds, with contemplative front and eye sublime, &c. But therapeutics requires you to swim or fly, as it were. You must possess a quick invention like an artist's invention, which shall follow inspirations where science declares the footing uncertain. Quoting Trousseau's lecture on "What is Clinical Medicine":— "Every science touches art at some points. The worst man of science is he who is never an artist, and the worst artist is he who is never a man of science." ~Walter Moxon, M.D., F.R.C.P. (1836–1886), "Art and Science in Medicine," 1874  [a little altered –tg]

We're living in an age of medical specialists. Nowadays what four out of five doctors recommend is another doctor. ~Robert Orben, 2400 Jokes to Brighten Your Speeches, 1984

Nothing is more dangerous than strict logic — which is not quite sure of its premises... From the number and deadliness of the maladies that lie in wait for us we have no logical right to expect to survive; and yet we are here in defiance of logic. Of course, this world is a dangerous place and few of us ever get out of it alive; yet the race goes right on living, somehow, undaunted in spite of the new and terrible diseases that medical science keeps discovering. ~Woods Hutchinson, A.M., M.D. (1862–1930), "The Diseases of Civilization," Civilization and Health, 1914

When you are called to a sick man, be sure you know what the matter is — if you do not know, nature can do a great deal better than you can guess. ~Dr. Nicholas de Belleville (1753–1831), quoted in Fred B. Rogers, Help-Bringers: Versatile Physicians of New Jersey, 1960

Do not resort to patent medicines and all sorts of nostrums. I can boldly express the opinion that communities are over-dosed... Nature is a great physician; do not be afraid to trust her. ~F. J. Groner, M.D., "Health Hints," 1889

Here's good advice for practice:  go into partnership with nature; she does more than half the work and asks none of the fee. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Who knows much about the herbalist, except as an irregular practitioner of the art of healing — irregular, that is, inasmuch as he holds no degree or diploma, and yet often a skillful man in his way, who has acquired the trust and confidence of the country-side, and whose fame has travelled far and wide in a noiseless, subterranean fashion? There is a deep-seated, hereditary faith among simple country folk, which turns towards the herb-doctor as the presumed repository of the healing gifts of Nature — especially if the herb-doctor be some wise man who has inherited the lore of his forefathers; or, if the doctor be an old woman, the faith is perhaps still greater... ~"The Herbalist," All the Year Round, 1888

Western medicine is a medi-sin. When did we get away from nature? ~Terri Guillemets, "Pills," 2004

The public blabbers about preventive medicine, but will neither appreciate nor pay for it. You get paid for what you cure. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

A Short History of Medicine:
2000 B.C. – "Here, eat this root."
1000 B.C. – "That root is heathen, say this prayer."
1850 A.D. – "That prayer is superstition, drink this potion."
1940 A.D. – "That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill."
1985 A.D. – "That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic."
2000 A.D. – "That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root."
~Author unknown

QUACK. A doctor who ducks the law. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905

Allopathy depends upon arsenic, mercury, and every known poison that can kill; and, therefore, it argues, destroys disease, which, like a monster, must be driven out. The medical treatment resembles exorcising during the middle ages. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867  [a little altered —tg]

Nothing is glummer
Than a cold in the summer...
A cough in the fall
Is nothing at all,
A winter snuffle
Is lost in the shuffle,
And April sneezes
Put leaves on the treeses,
But a summer cold
Is to have and to hold...
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "Fahrenheit Gesundheit"

DIAGNOSIS, n.  A physician's forecast of disease by the patient's pulse and purse. ~Ambrose Bierce

It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy. ~Medical proverb

The patient does not care about your science; what he wants to know is, can you cure him? ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Idiopathic and idiotic have common stem. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

What clinical lectures I will give in heaven, demonstrating the ignorance of doctors! ~Israel Zangwill, Dreamers of the Ghetto, "From a Mattress Grave," 1897, spoken by the character Heinrich Heine

A good knowledge of the pulse is most important in the understanding of disease. ~N. E. Yorke-Davies, One Thousand Medical Maxims and Surgical Hints, 1883

Drugs are not always necessary. Belief in recovery always is. ~Norman Cousins, "The Mysterious Placebo: How Mind Helps Medicine Work," Saturday Review, 1977

We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work. ~Albert Schweitzer, c. 1957, quoted by Norman Cousins

The placebo is the doctor who resides within. ~Norman Cousins, "The Mysterious Placebo: How Mind Helps Medicine Work," Saturday Review, 1977

APPENDICITIS  A modern pain, costing about $200 more than the old-fashioned stomachache. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

You may know the intractability of a disease by its long list of remedies. ~Alonzo Clark, M.D. (1807–1887)

When many remedies are proposed for an illness, it's a sure sign that it's incurable. ~Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard, 1904, translated by Milton Ehre, 1992

The doctor is often more to be feared than the disease. ~French proverb

I look upon disease a natural effect, produced by artificial means. ~Ferdinand Dupré, M.D., Orthodox or Allopathic Medicine: What Is It?, 1867

Cancer changes your life. You learn what's important, you learn to prioritize, you learn not to waste your time. My friend Gilda Radner used to say, "If it weren't for the downside, everyone would want to have it." ~Joel Siegel, 2003

Cancer is a word, not a sentence. ~Author unknown

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell. ~Lance Armstrong

My veins are filled, once a week with a Neapolitan carpet cleaner distilled from the Adriatic and I am as bald as an egg. ~John Cheever, 1982

Cancer don't respect nothing. ~The Sopranos, "Mergers and Acquisitions," 2002, teleplay by Lawrence Konner  [S4, E8, Furio]

We 'need' cancer because, by the very fact of its incurability, it makes all other diseases, however virulent, not cancer. ~Gilbert Adair, "Under the Sign of Cancer," Myths & Memories, 1986

Let your entrance into the sick room decrease, not increase, the irritability of your patient. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

A doctor must work eighteen hours a day and seven days a week. If you cannot console yourself to this, get out of the profession. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Physiology is the stepchild of medicine. That is why Cinderella often turns out the queen. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

If you are too smart to pay the doctor, you had better be too smart to get ill. ~African proverb

Veteran debtors dabble in stocks,
Or their families get adenoids or appendicitis or pox,
Any of which means that debt is what they get beneather and beneather,
Either to them who told them about the stocks or to them who administer the chloroform and ether...
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "First Payment Deferred"

Guys, insurance is not going to pay for more than fifteen minutes. You still have to listen, okay? You have to take that time as a loss. You have to ask questions and give a [$h¡t]. ~Fleishman Is in Trouble, "Summon Your Witnesses," 2022,, written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner,, based on the 2019 novel  [S1, E1, Dr. Toby Fleishman]

Financial ruin from medical bills is almost exclusively an American disease. Elsewhere medicine is mostly taken care of by insurance which pays all the bills for as long as one is sick. One does not have to be ground down to the level of a pauper before getting help. Moreover, this system is no untried, blue-sky scheme. In Germany, for example, it's been operating successfully for 100 years, with minimum involvement of government. In Britain, insurance has been eschewed in favor of paying the bills out of taxes. But most people there now feel that it would have been better to move in the direction of insurance. Whatever the system, none of them expects a citizen to pay medical bills he cannot afford. Although private medicine still flourishes in these countries and doctors do well, essential medicine is provided for all, not just welfare patients. And for those who want extras, they can either pay out of their own pockets or take out additional insurance. The soaring costs of modern medicine brought about compulsory or universal systems when it became obvious that voluntary insurance wasn't adequate. ~Roul Tunley, "Why Not Compulsory Hospital Insurance?," in Saturday Review, 1967

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE.  The theory that, since the sky rockets following a wallop in the eye are optical delusions, the wallop itself is a delusion and the eye another. ~H. L. Mencken

Christyan Scientists think they'se no such thing as disease, an' doctors think there ain't annythin' else. ~Finley Peter Dunne

150 people die every year from being hit by falling coconuts. Not to worry, drug makers are developing a vaccine. ~Jim Carrey, @JimCarrey, tweet, 2009

Pharmaceutical companies will soon rule the world if we keep letting them believe that we are a happy, functional society so long as all the women are on Prozac, all children on Ritalin, and all men on Viagra. ~Terri Guillemets, "Getting by with a little help," 1998

Life is pharmaceutical
from head to cuticle.
~David McCord

The field of Western medicine has seemingly become literally nothing but medicine. Are doctors are on their way out, to be replaced by self-service pharmaceutical vending machines? ~Terri Guillemets, "Prescribed," 2004

On J-Day our profession will have a lot to answer for! We might at least have withheld our hands instead of making them work against God. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

Lampyris noctiluca is a paralyzing insect. Before he begins to feast, the Glow-worm administers an anæsthetic: he chloroforms his victim, rivalling the wonders of our modern surgery, which renders the patient insensible before operating on him. The usual game is a small Snail hardly the size of a cherry. The insect repeatedly taps the Snail's mantle with its instrument — the weapon is two mandibles bent back powerfully into a hook, very sharp and thin as a hair. It all happens with such gentleness as to suggest kisses rather than bites. The Lampyris doles out his tweaksies, distributing them methodically, without hurrying — half-a-dozen, at most — to induce general torpor, a sort of deep drunkenness. Humans' operators proceed by making us inhale the fumes of ether or chloroform; the insect injects a special virus that comes from the mandibular fangs in infinitesimal doses. We know that humble little animals can produce complete anæsthesia in their patients; human science did not in reality invent this art. Animal knowledge had a long start of ours. And one day we will understand the beastie's secrets even better! What glorious discoveries the future has in store for us. ~J. Henri Fabre, The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, 1919  [altered —tg]

A doctor whose breath smells has no right to medical opinion. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

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published 2000 Dec 23
revised Oct 2020
last saved 2023 Feb 28