Peter Sellers’ desi doctor – who “With one jab in the Punjab/Cured the beri-beri,/And the dreaded dysentery/”, — might well have bad occasion to exclaim “Goodness gracious me!” The cause of the good doctor’s discombobulation would be the report that the stethoscope — almost as venerable and hallowed a symbol of the healing science as the twin serpent-intertwined staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology – might soon be phased out and relegated into oblivion. Two hundred years after it was invented by French scientist Rene Laennec, the device which, together with the white coat, which is emblematic of the medical profession is facing increasing competition from a variety of handheld devices that, with the help of built-in ultrasound technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and smartphone apps can better detect any anomalies in a patient’s breathing and other biological rhythms than can the keenest ears of any human.
As a noted Chicago-based cardiologist put it, “Something that’s just a pair of rubber tubes was OK for 200 years. But we need to move beyond that.” However, not all of his professional colleagues would concur with such views, and might be less than happy with a development which relies on electronic applications rather than human – and presumably humane – awareness of a patient’s health and well-being. In a lighter vein, the patient-doctor relationship as defined by the stethoscope could be summed up by the story of the medico who applying the device to a buxom lass said “Big breaths”. To which his patient proudly responded, “Yeth – and I’m only thixteen.”
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.