Medicine as a human science between the singularity of the patient and technical scientific reproducibility

Poiesis and Praxis 1 (3):171-184 (2003)
The often-emphasized tension between the singularity of the patient and technical–scientific reproducibility in medicine cannot be resolved without a discussion of the epistemological and methodological status of the human sciences. On the one hand, the rules concerning human action are analogous to the scientific laws of nature. They are de facto sufficiently stable to allow predictions and explanations similar to those of experimental sciences. From this point of view, it is only a trivial truth, but still a methodological irrelevancy, that the patient and the doctor–patient relationship represent an ontologically irreproducible reality. On the other hand, however, one can never exclude that one can fail in the application of "laws" of the human sciences to the individual patient, for such laws are by no means wholly separated from a patient's personal-hermeneutic mediation, and can at any time be revoked by becoming aware of them. This requires a synergistic collaboration of clinical and statistical methods, and shows a methodologically relevant sense in which one cannot disregard the singularity of the patient. The reason for the crucial role of the patient's singularity in medicine is every individual patient's capacity to revoke, in principle, routines and quasi-automatisms, even though the personal mediation by the patient's consciousness de facto changes them in such a small degree that predictions and explanations modeled in experimental science remain possible
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DOI 10.1007/s10202-002-0018-x
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