Why doctors don’t touch the patients anymore? Of course this does not refer to all doctors, but to a large number of them.
Authors have approached this theme exhaustively.
I ‘ve chosen two of them and extracts from their publications with insights to illustrate my statements:
ERIC B. ROBINS: “All tests were negative, there is nothing wrong,” says the doctor. The patient is relieved because there is noa serious problem, …”
The gaze plunges into the space that it has given itself the task
of traversing. In its primary form, the clinical reading implied an
external, deciphering subject, which, on the basis of and beyond
that which it spelt out, ordered and defined kinships. In
anatomo-clinical experience, the medical eye must see the illness
spread before it, horizontally and vertically in graded depth, as it
penetrates into the body, as it advances into its bulk, as it
circumvents or lifts its masses, as it descends into its depths.
Disease is no longer a bundle of characters disseminated here and
there over the surface of the body and linked together by
statistically observable concomitances and successions; it is a set of
forms and deformations, figures, and accidents and of displaced,
destroyed, or modified elements bound together in sequence
according to a geography that can be followed step by step. It is
no longer a pathological species inserting itself into the body
wherever possible; it is the body itself that has become ill.
At first sight, it might be thought that this constitutes a reduction
of the distance between the knowing subject and the object of
knowledge. Did not the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century doctor
remain ‘at a distance’ from his patient? Did he not observe him from
afar, noting only the superficial, immediately visible marks and
watching for phenomena, without physical contact or auscultation,
guessing at the inside by external notations alone? Was not the
change in medical knowledge at the end of the eighteenth century
based essentially on the fact that the doctor came close to the
patient, held his hand, and applied his ear to the patient’s body, that
by thus changing the balance, he began to perceive what was
immediately behind the visible surface, and that he was thereby led
gradually ‘to pass on to the other side’, and to map the disease in
the secret depths of the body? (Foucault M.: “The Birth of the Clinic”, Originally published under the title “Naissance de la Clinique” by Presses Universities de France, 1963, Tavistoc Pub Lmd, 1973).