[PW] Adage: It is more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what disease a patient has

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Sun Jul 21 23:00:34 PDT 2019

Thanks for your assiduous efforts, Donna. I (and no doubt other list
members) appreciate all the careful work you have performed to trace
this adage.

On Mon, Jul 22, 2019 at 1:51 AM Donna Halper <dlh at donnahalper.com> wrote:
> This may be a case of beating the proverbial dead horse, but having come
> to the conclusion that Dr. Woods Hutchinson (who was quoted in _a lot_
> of magazines & newspapers of his day) helped to popularize the Moxon
> quote, I wanted to see if I'd missed anyone else.  Continuing with my
> searches, I noted there are various versions of the quote, in addition
> to various people who were using it:  For example, in the 1906 /New York
> State Journal of Medicine/ (vol. 6, p. 122), Dr. John H. Pryor
> references Moxon but his version of the quote says "At this time the
> observation of Moxon seems pertinent:  it is quite as important to know
> what kind of a patient the disease has got as to know what sort of a
> disease the patient has got."  And in 1909, writing in /The Medical
> Summary/ (page 48) Dr. J.L DeWolfe says it like this:  "Moxon, the
> pathologist, says wisely: "It is very important to know what kind of
> disease the patient has got, but it is even more important to know what
> kind of patient the disease has got."   My favorite version is the
> return of Dr. John H. Pryor in the 1912 /New York Medical Journal/, p.
> 583, in which he acknowledges that (a) he's paraphrasing the quote, and
> (b) he says it's attributed to Moxon, perhaps hinting that nobody knows
> if Moxon really said it:  "Inability to find the exact words of a
> quotation attributed to Moxon obliges a reference from memory: “It is as
> important to know what kind of a patient the disease has got as to know
> what kind of a disease the patient has got.”   There's also a 1909
> paraphrase, with no mention of Moxon, in the /Journal of Nervous and
> Mental Disease/ (p. 737), and also in the /Journal of the American
> Medical Association/ that same year (p. 317).  Both credit a Dr. Putnam.
>    "Dr. J. W. Putnam, Buffalo N.Y., said: It has always seemed to me
> that the great desire to find what kind of disease the patient has may
> be carried to an extreme, and the tendency should also be to find out
> what kind of a patient is controlled by the disease."
> And as you noted on Quote Investigator page, there are numerous other
> times when this maxim was quoted around period from 1900-1912. I've
> found it in the 1907 /Therapeutic Gazette /(p. 247), a 1905 book by
> Francis Washington Everard Hare (p. 392), and numerous others-- in all
> cases, Moxon's first name is never mentioned, nor is there a time frame
> of when he said it, other than a couple of authors who say "many years
> ago" or "a long time ago."  I also find other permutations of the same
> thought-- like "treat the individual and not the disease" (or "treat the
> patient and not the disease") around the same time period. It's also
> interesting how the quote is frequently used during the early 1910s, and
> then it seems to recede, only to return in modern times (sometimes
> attributed, but usually not).  Not sure what any of this proves, but I
> thought you might find some of it interesting!
> --
> Donna L. Halper, PhD
> Associate Professor of Communication & Media Studies
> Lesley University, Cambridge MA
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-wombat
> list at project-wombat.org
> http://www.project-wombat.org/

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