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Quotations on Medical Subjects

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Welcome to my collection of quotes about medical topics.  —ღ Terri

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, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

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

The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated. ~Plato

Body and soul cannot be separated for purposes of treatment, for they are one and indivisible. Sick minds must be healed as well as sick bodies. ~C. Jeff Miller

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

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), Civilization and Health, "Chapter II: The Dawn of the New Doctor," 1914

Restore a man to his health, his purse lies open to thee. ~Robert Burton

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

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

It is a mathematical fact that fifty percent of all doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class. ~Author Unknown

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

I wondher why ye can always read a doctor's bill an' ye niver can read his purscription. ~Finley Peter Dunne

To array a man's will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine. ~Henry Ward Beecher

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

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

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

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

Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit – Life!
~Emily Dickinson, c.1859

You have a cough? Go home tonight, eat a whole box of Ex-Lax — tomorrow you'll be afraid to cough. ~Pearl Williams

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. ~A. Benson Cannon

A doctor who cannot take a good history and a patient who cannot give one are in danger of giving and receiving bad treatment. ~Author unknown

One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.... Soap and water and common sense are the best disinfectants. ~William Osler (1849–1919)

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

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. ~Voltaire

God heales, and the Physitian hath the thankes. ~George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs

Every disease is a physician. ~Irish Proverb

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)

It is sometimes as dangerous to be run into by a microbe as by a trolley car. ~J.J. Walsh

Drugs are not always necessary. Belief in recovery always is. ~Norman Cousins

I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica 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

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

Doctors think a lot of patients are cured who have simply quit in disgust. ~Don Herold

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

The worst thing about medicine is that one kind makes another necessary. ~Elbert Hubbard

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. ~Nicholas de Belleville

Throw physic to the dogs; I'll none of it. ~William Shakespeare

I recently became a Christian Scientist. It was the only health plan I could afford. ~Betsy Salkind

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)

Poisons and medicine are oftentimes the same substance given with different intents. ~Peter Mere Latham

In the nineteenth century men lost their fear of God and acquired a fear of microbes. ~Author Unknown

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

Symptoms, then are in reality nothing but the cry from suffering organs. ~Jean-Martin Charcot, translated from French

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the partciular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt. ~Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), 1889

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

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. ~Alexander of Tralles

Physicians and politicians resemble one another in this respect, that some defend the constitution and others destroy it. ~Author unknown

A smart mother makes often a better diagnosis than a poor doctor.  ~August Bier

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

When fate arrives the physician becomes a fool. ~Arabic proverb

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Mark Twain

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

Treat the patient, not the Xray. ~James M. Hunter

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

Financial ruin from medical bills is almost exclusively an American disease. ~Roul Turley

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)

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

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)

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

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

Medicines heal doubts as well as diseases. ~Karl Marx

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

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

Medicine sometimes snatches away health, sometimes gives it. ~Ovid

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)

As it takes two to make a quarrel, so it takes two to make a disease, the microbe and its host. ~Charles V. Chapin

Disease is war with the laws of our being, and all war, as a great general has said, is hell. ~Lewis G. Janes

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, November 1942

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

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

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)

To me the ideal doctor would be a man endowed with profound knowledge of life and of the soul, intuitively divining any suffering or disorder of whatever kind, and restoring peace by his mere presence. ~Henri Amiel

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?", read at the 34th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Medicine, Atlantic City, 1909 June 7th

America does not have a health care system; what modern medicine has created is an illness maintenance system. ~Morris Hyman, M.D. (b.1908), paraphrased

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)

It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy. ~Chinese Proverb

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

The road to medical knowledge is through the pathological museum and not through an apothecary's shop. ~William Withey Gull

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

When a lot of remedies are suggested for a disease, that means it cannot be cured. ~Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard

Asthma is a disease that has practically the same symptoms as passion except that with asthma it lasts longer. ~Author Unknown

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

No doctor is better than three. ~German Proverb

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

Man may be the captain of his fate, but is also the victim of his blood sugar. ~Wilfrid G. Oakley

Faith and knowledge lean largely upon each other in the practice of medicine. ~Peter Mere Latham (1789–1875)

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

Who ever thought up the word "Mammogram?" Every time I hear it, I think I'm supposed to put my breast in an envelope and send it to someone. ~Jan King

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

The purse of the patient often protracts his case. ~Zimmermann

[G]enerally 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

You may know the intractability of a disease by its long list of remedies. ~Alonzo Clark

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. (b.1908), "The Inquiry Begins," Congenital Alterable Transmissible Asymmetry: The Spiritual Meaning of Disease and Science, 1970

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)

Varicose veins are the result of an improper selection of grandparents. ~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

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

When you treat a disease, first treat the mind. ~Chen Jen

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)

Symptoms are the body's mother tongue; signs are in a foreign language. ~John Brown

The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease. ~Thomas Edison

So many come to the sickroom thinking of themselves as men of science fighting disease and not as healers with a little knowledge helping nature to get a sick man well. ~Auckland Geddes, The Practitioner

Where a man feels pain he lays his hand. ~Dutch Proverb  [Quoted in Henry G. Bohn, A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs comprising French, Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Danish, with English Translations, 1857 —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

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

Despite all our toil and progress, the art of medicine still falls somewhere between trout casting and spook writing. ~Ben Hecht, Miracle of the Fifteen Murderers

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," introductory lecture to Course on Materia Medica and Therapeutics, delivered at Guy's Hospital, London, 1874 May 5th [a little altered –tg]

Idiopathic and idiotic have common stem. ~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

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), Civilization and Health, "Chapter I: The Diseases of Civilization," 1914

The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them. ~Ecclesiasticus 38:4 (Bible)

The medicalization of early diagnosis not only hampers and discourages preventative health-care but it also trains the patient-to-be to function in the meantime as an acolyte to his doctor. He learns to depend on the physician in sickness and in health. He turns into a life-long patient. ~Ivan Illich

He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines. ~Benjamin Franklin

Physiology is the stepchild of medicine. That is why Cinderella often turns out the queen. ~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

The fact that your patient gets well does not prove that your diagnosis was correct. ~Samuel J. Meltzer

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)

Man is a creature composed of countless millions of cells: a microbe is composed of only one, yet throughout the ages the two have been in ceaseless conflict. ~A.B. Christie

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)

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 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]

The doctor may also learn more about the illness from the way the patient tells the story than from the story itself. ~James B. Herrick

Men are not going to embrace eugenics. They are going to embrace the first likely, trim-figured girl with limpid eyes and flashing teeth who comes along, in spite of the fact that her germ plasm is probably reeking with hypertension, cancer, haemophilia, colour blindness, hay fever, epilepsy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ~Logan Clendening

'Tis not always in a physician's power to cure the sick; at times the disease is stronger than trained art. ~Ovid

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

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

150 people die every year from being hit by falling coconuts. Not to worry, drug makers are developing a vaccine. ~Jim Carrey, 2009 November 20th tweet

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, Perambulator Poems, 1941

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

Medicines are not meat to live by. ~German proverb

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

You might be a medical worker if you firmly believe that "too stupid to live" should be a diagnosis. ~Author unknown

A sweating ovary or a sick prostate explains most history. ~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, July 1912

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)

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 —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

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 February 4th

To save a man's life against his will is the same as killing him. ~Horace  #dnr

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

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

One doctor makes work for another. ~English Proverb

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

Let the young know they will never find a more interesting, more instructive book than the patient himself. ~Giorgio Baglivi

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)

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

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