Homo Sapiens as Physician and Patient: a View from Darwinian Medicine

Angel A. Román-Franco


Medicine’s cardinal diagnostic and therapeutic resource is the clinical encounter. Over the last two centuries and particularly over the last five decades the function of the clinical encounter has been eroded to the point of near irrelevance because of the atomized and atomizing influence of technology and microspecialization. Meanwhile, over the past five decades the exceptionalist view of Homo sapiens inherent in the social and religious traditions of the West has similarly undergone radical changes. H. sapiens is now best understood as a microecosystem integrated into a much broader ecosystem: the biosphere. That human microecosystem is composed of constituents derived from the archaeal, bacterial, and eukaryan domains via endosymbiotic, commensalistic and mutualistic interactions. This amalgamation of 100 trillion cells and viral elements is regulated by a composite genome aggregated over the 3.8 billion years of evolutionary history of organic life. No component of H. sapiens or its genome can be identified as irreducibly and exclusively human. H. sapiens’ humanity is an emergent property of the microecosystem. Ironically as H. sapiens is viewed by evolutionary science in a highly integrated manner medicine approaches it as a balkanized, deaggregated entity through the eye of 150 different specialties. To effectively address the needs of H sapiens in its role as patient by the same species in its role as physician the disparate views must be harmonized. Here I review some conceptual elements that would assist a physician in addressing the needs of the patient in integrum, as a microecosystem, by the former address the latter as a historical gestalt being. The optimal way to recover the harmony between patient and physician is through a revitalization of the clinical encounter via an ecological and Darwinian epistemology.


Evolutionary medicine; human genome; physician-patient relation

Full Text:


Published by the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus
Founded in 1982