Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Plato on free and slave doctors

Athenian: And have you further observed that there are slaves as well as free men among the patients in our communities. The slaves are generally treated by slave doctors, who pay them a hurried visit or wait for them in the dispensaries. A physician of this kind never speaks to his patient individually or lets him talk about his complaints? He prescribes some empirical injunction; and when he has given his orders, like a tyrant, he rushes off to some other servant who is ill . . .

But the free practitioner, who for the most part attends freemen, treats their diseases by carrying his enquiries far back and goes into the nature of the disorder; taking the patient and his family into his confidence. So he is at once getting information from the sick man, instructing him as far as he is able, and not prescribing for him until he has won his support first and has persuaded him into compliance. Now which is the better way of proceeding in a physician . . . ?


From Plato, Laws, 360 BCE



Fall 2011  |  Sections  |  Literary Vignettes

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