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September 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1988 ; 26(12): 1175-81.

Traditional thought and modern Western surgery.

Katz P, Kirkland FR.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201.

This study, based in part on anthropological field work with surgeons, is an examination of some aspects of traditional thinking and practices which coexist with, and are embedded in, the scientific thinking and practices of modern surgery. The focus is on the role of these beliefs and practices in modern surgical culture in understanding the causes and prevention of post-operative infections. Three beliefs and practices that exist in traditional and modern medical systems are examined: (A) personalistic disease causes and cures; (B) myriad endogenous and exogenous disease causes; and (C) ritual practices. The adaptive and nonadaptive functions of these beliefs and practices in modern surgery are explored.

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