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Richard Clarke Cabot

Born 1868
Died 1939

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American physician, born May 21, 1868, Brookline, Massachusetts; died 1939, Boston.

Biography of Richard Clarke Cabot

If you are into snobbishness, Richard Clarke Cabot is a man to take a closer look at, at least if he is to be judged by his background. He was a member of the premier family of Boston, characterising itself in the well known poem:

    "So this is good old Boston. The home of the bean and the cod.
    Where the Lowells talk only to the Cabots. And the Cabots talk only to God."

    "I dwell 'neath the shades of Harvard
    In the State of the Sacred Cod,
    Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots
    And the Cabots speak only to God"

A man of broad interests, Richard Clarke Cabot graduated from Harvard College in 1889 with honours in Classics and philosophy and retained throughout his life an interest in ethics and philosophy. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1892, qualified as lecturer in 1899, and remained at Harvard throughout his career, being an instructor in 1903, assistant professor in 1908, professor of clinical medicine in 1918 and, in 1929, also professor of social ethics. During the first World War he served in the Harvard unit at Bordeaux and briefly was with the Red Cross. He was emerited in 1933.

    «There are two kinds of appendicitis - acute appendicitis and appendicitis for revenue only».
    Clinicopathological conference discussion. Ca 1925.

    «I believe that we not only feed the public demand for useless and harmful drugs, but also go far to create that very demand. We educate our patients and their friends to believe that every or almost every symptom and disease can be benefited by a drug.
    Journal of the American Medical Association.1906; 47: 982.

    «Ethics and Science need to shake hands».
    The meaning of Right and Wrong, introduction.

    «The job of the physician as a physician and teacher is not just to tell but to convince.»
    Quoted by David Seegal in Journal of Medical Education, 1964, 39: 1030.

    «In my experience the educated physician who knows that only a few of his patients can be much benefited by drugs, gives out just as many prescriptions as the ignorant physician who believes all that the Pharmacopoeia and the nostrum vendor tell him. The only difference is that the educated physician gives his drugs as placebos. In my opinion, the placebo habit of giving drugs to every people with full faith in their pharmacologic action . . . . They weaken the confidence of the patient in the physician, because every placebo is a lie, and in the long run the lie is found out. We give a placebo with one meaning; the patient receives it with quite another. We mean him to suppose that the drug acts directly on his body, not through his mind by means of expectant attention. If the patient finds out what we are doing, he laughs at it or is rightly angry with us. I have seen both the laughter and the anger - at our expense. Placebo giving is quackery. It also fosters the nostrum evil."
    Journal of the American Medical Association, 1906, 47: 982.

    «In a smoker, probably the earliest known indication of disease is that he begins to give up Tobacco»
    New England Journal of Medicine, Boston, 1931, 205: 740.

    «Before you tell the "truth" to the patient, be sure you know the "truth," and that the patient wants to hear it.»
    Quoted by David Segal in Journal of Chronic Diseases. 1963; 16: 443.

We thank Phil Freed for information submitted.

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