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Infez Med. 2017 Sep 1;25(3):292-297.

A return to humane medicine: Osler's legacy.

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Institute of Bioethics and Medical Humanities, "A. Gemelli" School of Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy.


Sir William Osler is celebrated today not only for his contributions to the advancement of medical education, but also for the humanism he brought to the practice of medicine. He was a doctor whose bedside skills and manners were emulated, and can legitimately be called an infectious diseases specialist. Nonetheless, he was also a humanist in the broader sense of the term, a student of human affairs and human nature, who emphasised compassion for the individual. To what extent, if any, are today's challenges influenced by departures from the paradigms created by Osler? In this paper we sought to ascertain whether such a tradition is still relevant to current practice and may foster a new perspective. We analysed two features of Osler's legacy that may be useful to clinicians: the first is his vision of the patient-physician relationship; the second is his approach to humanities. William Osler saw medicine in its wider scope, with the right and duty to be concerned with the human condition as a whole. Indeed, his rounded concept of the medical profession as being engaged in helping and caring for the whole human being could help physicians build a more humanised medicine. Adopted in the age of evidence-based medicine, the Oslerian approach can enhance the relationship with patients and give physicians a role based on trust and authoritativeness rather than on authority.

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