The Doctors Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw

The Doctor's Dilemma George Bernard Shaw Are Doctors Men of Science

Are Doctors Men of Science

This essay, “Are Doctors Men of Science?” is an extract from the preface to G. B. Shaw’s play “The Doctors Dilemma”. There he ridicules the practicing doctors who know nothing about science. There is a widespread misconception that every doctor is a man of science. Very few people think that science means much more than conjuring with retorts, spirit lamps, magnets, and microscopes or discovering medical cures for diseases. An ignorant man wrongly thinks that every professional is well-versed in his professional knowledge. Most of the doctors are no more scientific than their tailors.

Doctoring is an Art

Doctoring is an art, not a science. It is the art of curing illness. Every layman may know more about science, by reading scientific journals, than the doctors who are not interested in science. They practice only to earn their living.

A practicing doctor seldom makes any contribution to science. The only difference between a quack and a qualified doctor is that the latter is authorized to sign death certificates.

Healers & Herbalists

Unqualified practitioners earn a lot. Every bone-setters earn handsomely educated and wealthy patients. The most successful doctors use heretical methods of treatment of their diseases. The village witches prescribe spells and charms. The most professional healers are herbalists. On Sundays, they search for herbs with the properties of curing diseases, even preventing childbirth, etc. There is no difference between the treating method of the herbalist and that of the registered doctor. Once a relative of the writer, an old lay, consulted a doctor about the symptoms of the need for a holiday and change.  The doctor diagnosed heart depression and gave her a strong dose of a drug. Being strong, the old lady survived. The writer says that a herbalist would have treated a farm laborer in the same way.

An Analysis

The essay is a satire on the practicing doctors who have no knowledge of science and whose only purpose is to earn money. The writer refutes the idea that every doctor is a man of science. Science does not mean using retorts, spirit lamps or magnets, etc. Doctoring is an art, not a science. It is not an art of keeping healthy, but of curing illness. Every layman interested in science may know more about science than practicing doctors. The only difference between a quack and a qualified doctor is that the latter can sign death certificates. Unqualified doctors, bone-setters, quacks, herbalists, witches, and heretics loot even educated people by using herbals, spells and charms, etc.

Doctoring is an Art, not Science

A layman has a wrong concept of science. To him, science means only conjuring with retorts spirit lamps and magnets, etc… Science means much more than that. The scientific method demands a scientific habit or attitude of mind which is based on the collection and observation of facts. The scientific method rids us of our likes, dislikes, and prejudices. As every professional man is not necessarily well-versed in his professional knowledge, a doctor does not necessarily know about science. A doctor knows as much of science as a common man. Hence most of the doctors are no more scientific than their tailors. Any layman can gain knowledge of science through scientific journals and social media. He even knows more than doctors. Doctors, therefore, do not study science. They practice doctoring to earn their living. That is why doctoring is an art, the art of curing diseases, and not a science.

A practicing doctor seldom makes any contribution to science. He often draws wrong conclusions because he has no idea of scientific method. He behaves as a rustic or a layman. Exceptions are always there. Some doctors have made valuable contribution to science.

Doctoring and G. B. Shaw

Doctoring, according to Bernard Shaw, is the art of curing illness and not the art of keeping people in health. That is why people consult doctors only when they suffer from some disease. They never consult a doctor to improve their health. So far as the improvement of health is concerned, anybody, one’s grandmother or any quack can advise one about eating or dieting. Anyhow, if a patient has grown weak as a result of sickness the doctor can prescribe a dose of vitamins for him so that he may recover his lost health. The doctor is a dietician or a hygienist.

It is, therefore, to agree with Shaw that “doctoring is not even the art of keeping people in health.” It, on the other hand, is the art of spoiling people’s health. Most of the doctors prescribe to their patients patent medicines supplied to them by firms and companies. The diseases for which a specific medicine is to be used, the dosage and ingredients, etc. everything is written on the pack. Doctors prescribe those medicines without testing them with the results that sometimes they prove harmful to patients. Thus instead of improving their health or curing a certain disease, the doctors in this way, spoil their patients’ health.

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