Abstract

Even with something as fundamental as the symbol used to depict the noble profession of healing there are some myths involved. The caduceus or the staff of Hermes, depicted as a stick entwined by two snakes and surmounted wings is adopted as a symbol, either as an emblem or as part of the logo of hospitals, medical colleges, clinics, professional bodies, prescriptions and medical journals. But Shetty et al. [1] suggest that this widespread practice is based on a myth and this is a false symbol and has little or nothing to do with the noble art of healing. The true and authentic symbol of medicine is not the caduceus but the Rod of Asclepius. The Rod of Asclepius is a single serpent entwined rod wielded by the Greek god of healing and medicine, Asclepius [1]. Perhaps the greatest exponent of the debunking of myths and misunderstanding was the late, great Dr Richard Asher, who nearly 50 years after his premature death is a “must-read” for us all [2]. A case in point he highlights is the famous Pel–Ebstein fever in Hodgkin’s disease, which never actually existed. Pel and Ebstein actually had a patient with Brucellosis. The Hodgkin’s myth was copied from textbook to textbook uncritically, occasionally being reinforced by everyone being summoned to see a Hodgkin’s patient who by chance had a not dissimilar fever. The slavish copying of the causes of false positive sweat test results from paper to paper is another example of how myths can become embedded [3].