This study explores the history of physician-patient relationships, especially as it relates to the ascendancy of science in medicine. The book begins by describing traditional physician-patient relationships in the 18th century. The focus, however, is on the "modern" doctor (beginning in the 1880's) and the "postmodern" doctor (beginning in the 1950's).

The author describes the transition from modern to postmodern doctor and a corresponding transition from modern to postmodern patient. A "sympathetic alliance" between physician and patient was essentially a development of the modern period (1880's - 1950's).


This is a concise and clearly written history of physician-patient relationships. The received view of the traditional doctor and his compliant and trusting patient is actually a product of the modern period, during which scientific developments enhanced patients' faith in medicine and physicians cultivated "bedside manners."

In the last 30 years, faith in medicine has been undermined, despite the fact that technology has made it ever more powerful. At the same time, physicians have turned their attention away from patients as persons. These factors have led to the development of the postmodern doctor-patient relationship. Sections of "Bedside Manners "could be very useful in presenting these issues in medical humanities courses.


Edward Shorter is the History of Medicine Hannah Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



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