The Doctor and his Relationship with Patients in Greece in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C

Alberto Jori


Ever since the fifth century B.C. Greek doctors were well aware of the importance and implications of the doctor/patient relationship. In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. two contrasting views developed. The first is set out in various treatises of the corpus Hippocraticum, especially in those in which the genuine hippocratic spirit seems to be present, with significant echoes in Platonic thought. According to this, the doctor should carry on a continuous informative and persuasive dialogue with the patient. Under the alternative view, which is explained most clearly in another treatise of the Corpus entitled The Art, the medical practitioner, as the only person possessing scientific knowledge, acts only to convey instructions to ill people, without trying in any way to instal an exchange of information with them. This second model of the doctor/patient relationship has undoubtedly dominated throughout the history of western medicine, until this century in fact. Only recently has the need to involve the patient more directly in treatment been realised, as part of a humanistic approach to medicine.

Key words. Corpus Hippocraticum - Dialogue - Doctor - Greek Medicine

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