15 Health Care Quotes From Famous Thinkers


Few topics in our culture today have burned with such fire as health care. Talking heads on the TV news programs battle over who has the better plan to lower costs and raise quality daily. Conferences are held to convene the best of today's thinkers to share their ideas. Books and many articles are written and published to voice more opinions, and for people to line up and take sides.

It's all a bit of running full-lung fast through a maze in a pitch dark room: Everybody rushing to get to the end, urgently goading people to follow their particular plan of escape, and no one can see where they're going.

In cases like this, I turn to history when I need a flashlight. There is clarity in simple and enduring ideas. So take a time-out from the political and economic Gordian Knot of our age: fixing the health care delivery system. Instead, let these thinkers remind us of what's really at stake--the person who suffers right in front of us. Each of us is armed already with the power to heal without the need for cash, without the risk of side effects. The human spirit and our connection to each other; that too, is medicine. 

  1. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 
    ― Hippocrates
  2. “Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.” 
    ― George Gordon Byron
  3. “We look for medicine to be an orderly field of knowledge and procedure. But it is not. It is an imperfect science, an enterprise of constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and at the same time lives on the line. There is science in what we do, yes, but also habit, intuition, and sometimes plain old guessing. The gap between what we know and what we aim for persists. And this gap complicates everything we do.” 
    ― Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
  1. “It is very expensive to give bad medical care to poor people in a rich country.” 
    ― Paul Farmer
  2. “Disease is the biggest money maker in our economy.” 
    ― John H. Tobe
  3. “After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting.” 
    ― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
  1. “Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?” 
    ― George Carlin
  2. “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” 
    ― Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa
  3. “The physician should not treat the disease but the patient who is suffering from it” 
    ― Maimonides
  4. “Though the doctors treated him, let his blood, and gave him medications to drink, he nevertheless recovered.” 
    ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
  5. “How do you tell the psychiatrists from the patients in the hospital?
    The patients get better and leave.” 
    ― Lisa Scottoline, Every Fifteen Minutes
  6. "Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in early stages." 
    ― James Madison
  7. "I'm great at a death bed. I've never given tranquilizers or psychiatric medicine. I've given love and fun and creativity and passion and hope, and these things ease suffering."
    ― Patch Adams
  1. "To array a man's will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine."
    ― Henry Ward Beecher
  2. "If we want to fight people in the world, we should fight them with pillows - pillows stuffed with food, medicine, music...That would be so much cheaper than bombs."
    ― Alice Walker