12 October 2011


The wisdom of the ancient Greeks can still inform modern medical practice.

In mythology, Procrustes was a mischievous innkeeper who offered every traveler a bed. However, the bed was made of iron, and he would either stretch the travelers out or amputate their legs to make them fit perfectly. In one version, Procrustes kept two different-sized beds to ensure that no one fit. The Athenian hero Theseus killed Procrustes, ending his reign of terror.

An excellent contemporary book on physical diagnosis, Sapira's, advises how to ask the patient good questions about their history. It warns against having preconceived notions of the patient's diagnosis and forcing the patient's story to conform to it, calling such practitioners "Procrusteans."