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Are Doctors Treating the Diagnosis or the Patient?


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  • Chief Cushie



September 18, 2008, 2:11 pm


Are Doctors Treating the Diagnosis or the Patient?


Often patients visit the doctor with a litany of symptoms and the hope that the doctor can give them a diagnosis.


But as Dr. Pauline W. Chen notes in her "Doctor and Patient" column today, a diagnosis doesn't always lead to better care. The problem, she notes, is that once doctors settle on a diagnosis, they start treating that specific disease, rather than always listening to the specific problems of the patient in front of them. The illness may have a name, but the patient has become anonymous. Dr. Chen writes:


Over the last century and a half, however, medicine has increasingly decoupled disease from the individual. This decoupling has given rise to the concept of precise, objective and quantifiable diagnoses, diagnoses so separate from patients that they seem in many ways to take on a life of their own?. When we know what is wrong, we sometimes stop paying such close

attention to those patient experiences that seem to have little relevance to the diagnosis at hand. We focus less on the individual and more on the diagnosis.


To read more, check out today's fascinating "Doctor and Patient" column: "The Tyranny of Diagnosis."


Have you been frustrated by the medical community's inability to diagnose your ailment? Did your care improve once doctors were able to put a label on your problems? Please join Dr. Chen in the discussion by sharing your thoughts and experiences below.


Comment on this blog at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/a...or-the-patient/

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