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A physician (or medical doctor) practices medicine osteopathy and in many states, chiropractic, and is concerned with maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease and injury. This is accomplished through a detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology, diseases and treatment — the science of medicine — and its applied practice — the art or craft of medicine.


  • There is sometimes more Skill shewed by a Physician in not Prescribing, than in Prescribing. And there is no better Remedy for some Diseases, than to let them alone : for unseasonable meddling with them, may hinder their proceeding to a Crisis, and at long Run they will mend of themselves.
    • Thomas Fuller, Introductio ad prudentiam: Part II (1727), aphorism 3064.
  • Les médecins administrent des médicaments dont ils savent très peu, à des malades dont ils savent moins, pour guérir des maladies dont ils ne savent rien.
    • Doctors are men who prescribe medicine of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, for human beings of which they know nothing.
    • Attributed to Voltaire in Strauss' Familiar Medical Quotations (1968), p. 394, and in publications as early as 1956 [1]; the quotation in French does not, however, appear to be original, and is probably a relatively modern invention, only quoted in recent (21st century) published works, which attribute it to "Voltaire" without citing any source.
  • For the first time in our tradition there was a complete separation between killing and curing. Throughout the primitive world the doctor and the sorcerer tended to be the same person. He with power to kill had power to cure, including specially the undoing of his own killing activities.
    He who had power to cure would necessarily also be able to kill. With the Greeks the distinction was made clear. One profession, the followers of Asclepius, were to be dedicated completely to life under all circumstances, regardless of rank, age, or intellect— the life of a slave, the life of the Emperor, the life of a foreign man, the life of a defective child. This is a priceless possession which we cannot afford to tarnish, but society always is attempting to make the physician into a killer— to kill the defective child at birth, to leave the sleeping pills beside the bed of the cancer patient. It is the duty of society to protect the physician from such requests.
    • Margaret Mead, on the Hippocratic Oath. Quoted in Psychiatry and Ethics (1972), Maurice Levine, M.D., George Braziller, pub., ISBN 0807606421 ISBN 9780807606421 pp. 324-325, [2] citing (notes, p. 377) a personal communication from Margaret Mead, 1961. [3] Maurice Levine (1902-1971) was "distinguished former chairman of the University of Cincinnati Department of Psychiatry." Compare: Who knows how to heal knows how to destroy (qui scit sanare scit destruere) - A woman's testimony before the Inquisition, Modena, 1499. Quoted in Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West (1999), John M. Riddle, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674270266 ISBN 978067427026 p. 118. [4]

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