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Schlesinger, H.J. Appelbaum, A.H. (2000). When Words Are Not Enough. Psychoanal. Inq., 20(1):124-143.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 20(1):124-143

When Words Are Not Enough

Herbert J. Schlesinger, Ph.D. and Ann H. Appelbaum, M.D.

Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.

And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

TOUCHING, THE “LAYING ON OF HANDS,” has had a central place in all systems of healing practice since time immemorial, but attitudes about it increasingly became mixed as medicine became more “scientific.” In the past, doctors applied their ears to the chest of the patient to hear the breath sounds and heartbeat and to the abdomen to hear the sounds of the bowel. The stethoscope, EKG, and X-ray, and later the CAT scan, MRI, and sonography, placed increasing distance between the patient's skin and the doctor's ears, eyes, and hands, so that direct examination of the patient has become increasingly perfunctory. The fear and awe of the body and of the laying on of hands that every medical student must overcome is suppressed by objectifying the body.

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