Abraham Verghese, an American specialist in general medicine, wrote a moving testimony that is at the same time a serious warning about the progressive extinction of medical wisdom. In clear alignment with what Jacques Lacan developed in his 1966 conference Psychoanalysis and Medicine[1], Verghese denounces the danger of studying scans instead of the patient. The computer is now the place where the dialogue between doctors and nurses takes place, he says. For this doctor, the loss of the practitioners’ own abilities to listen to the patient before they disappear under a mountain of protocols and technical tests is one of the most serious errors that lead to medical malpractice and the definitive perversion of a knowledge that, uprooted from tradition, runs the risk of falling into the degradation of therapeutics.

Examining the body, feeling it with one’s own hands, is still a ritual that Verghese considers necessary to preserve due to its immense symbolic value. His experience has shown him that the symbolic has its effectiveness, alongside the information that technology can offer, the advantages of which are not disregarded at all, but which are not enough to sustain a medical practice in which it is not only the organism that is in play but also the subject, that is, the relationship of a being that speaks with a body that is tormented not only by viruses and genetic anomalies but also by the unconscious. “I have discovered that patients of almost all cultures have great expectations in the ritual of examination when they are seen by a doctor […] Rituals involve crossing a threshold, and this is decisive in cementing the doctor-patient relationship. It is a way of saying “I will be with you throughout this disease, through thick and thin. It is vital that doctors never forget the importance of this ritual.”

The new madness of the hyperbolic accumulation of data, converted into the contemporary creed of the sects of Silicon Valley and its billionaire prophets, are proof that the separation between science and technology is advancing towards an irreconcilable horizon. While impossibility was the guiding principle of scientific discourse, for technology nothing is impossible. Technology is therefore the most appropriate instrument for the material and spiritual realization of capitalism. True science is slow in its progress and advancement. The hyper-technicians, on the other hand, are in a great hurry to achieve their objectives. For them, it is not only death that is an obstacle in their career but also time. Perhaps they are the prelude to a new configuration of subjectivity: the man without unconscious, the man whom nothing divides, man become his own centre. Man definitely cured of the symptom of being human.


Translated by Roger Litten


This is an excerpt of an interview published in Spanish here: http://www.telam.com.ar/notas/201507/112636-el-hombre-curado-definitivamente-del-sintoma-de-ser-humano.html

[1] Abraham Verghese, professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Cf. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/opinion/27verghese.html