Giving the Stethoscope a Makeover

It's high time for an upgrade in medicine.

More

Like the caduceus and the lab coat, the stethoscope is a symbol of modern medicine. But some doctors are starting to doubt its worth. “It’s a relic,” said Eric Topol, a cardiologist and geneticist who directs the Scripps Translational Institute in La Jolla, California. In the video above, he demonstrates how to use a new alternative: a small ultrasound machine that looks like a flip phone.

In an interview with Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific on Thursday, Topol scathingly criticized doctors’ unwillingness to embrace new technologies and involve patients in care. “There’s an unwillingness to let go,” he said. “It’s a deep-seated paternalism – ‘doctor knows best.’ It’s like the 1400s and the high priests before the printing press.”

Topol is also a big believer in the power of genetic sequencing. If people find out what’s in their DNA, he said, they can work to prevent future illness – someone with a predisposition toward melanoma can stay out of the sun, for example. But Topol may be in a small minority. According to the American Medical Association, he said, “95 percent of doctors don’t feel comfortable with genomic data.”

Jump to comments

Emma Green is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the National Channel, manages TheAtlantic.com’s homepage, and writes about religion and culture.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Where the Wildest Things Are

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Video

Just In