Technology is believed to have liberated health care from dogmas, myths and speculations of earlier times. However, we are accused of using technology in an excessive, futile and even detrimental way, as if technology is compelling our actions. It appears to be like the monster threatening Dr. Frankenstein or like the socerer’s broom in the hand of the apprentice. That is, the same technology that should liberate us from myths, appears to be mythical. The objective of this article is to investigate the background for the re-entrance of the myth: How we encounter it and how we can explain it. The main point is that a myth of technology is normative: it relates ‘is’ and ‘ought’ and directs our actions. This becomes particularly clear in health care. Hence, if there is a myth of technology, it is an ethical issue, and should be taken seriously.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Reiser, S.J. (1978) Medicine and the Reign of Technology. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Ellul, J. (1964) The Technological Society, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Winner, L. (1977) Autonomous Technology, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
Mitcham, C. (1994) Thinking through Technology. The Path between Engineering and Philosophy. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Smith, M.R. and Marx, L. (1994) Does technology drive history?: the dilemma of technological determinism, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Bennett, I.L. (1977) Technology as a shaping force, in: Knowles, J.H. (ed.) Doing better and feeling worse, Norton & Co., New York, pp. 125–133.
Tymstra, T. (1989) The imperative character of medical technology and the meaning of “anticipated decision regret”, Int J of Technology Assessment in health Care 5: 207–13.
Cassell, E.J. (1993) The Sorcerer’s Broom. Medicine’s Rampant Technology, Hastings Center Report 23: 32–39.
Rothman, D.J. (1997) Beginnings count: the technological imperative in American health care, Oxford University Press, New York.
Callahan, D. (1996) The Goals of Medicine: Setting New Priorities, Hastings Center Report 18.
Illich, I. (1975) Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health. Calder and Boyars, London.
Lewis, T. (1977) On the science and technology of medicine. in: Knowles, J.H. (ed.). Doing better and feeling worse, Norton & Co., New York, pp. 35–46.
Jennett, B. (1986) High technology medicine — benefits and burdens. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Payer, L. (1992) Disease Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers Are Making You Feel Sick, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Schneidermann, L.J. and Jecker, N.S. (1995) Wrong Medicine: Doctors, Patients and Futile Treatment, Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore.
Fischer, E.S. and Welch, H.G. (1999) Avoiding the Unintended Consequences of Growth in Medical Care. JAMA 281: 446–53.
Thomas, L. (1977) On the Science and Technology of Medicine, in: Knowles, J.H. (ed.) Doing Better and Feeling Worse: Health in the United States, W.W. Norton, New York.
Hellerstein, D. (1983) Overdosing on medical technology, Technol Rev 86: 12–7.
Davidson, S.N. (1995) Technological Cancer: Its Causes and Treatment., Healtcare Forum J 38: 52–58.
Muraskas, J., Marshall, P.A., Tomich, P., Myers, T.F., Gianopoulos, J.G. and Thomasma, D.C. (1999) Neonatal Viability in the 1990s: held Hostage by Technology. Camb Q Healthc Ethics (United States) 8: 160–70.
Willis, J. (1995) The Paradox of Progress. New York: Radcliffe Medical Press.
Dworkin G. (1982) Is more choice better than less? Midwest Studies in Philosophy, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN., vol. 7: 47–62.
Jonsen, A.R. (1988). What Does Life Support Support? in: Winslade, W. (ed.). Personal Choices and Public Commitments: Perspectives on the Humanities, Insitute for the Medical Humanities, Galveston, TX.
Johnson, A.G. (1994) Surgery as a placebo. Lancet 344: 1140–2.
Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T.W. (1972) Dialectic of enlightenment, Continuum, New York.
Wright, GHv. (1993) [Myten om framsteget], Bonnier, Stockholm.
Hanson, M..J. and Callahan, D. (1999) The Goals of Medicine: The Forgotten Issues in Health Care Reform. Georgetown University Press, Washington DC.
Marx, L. and Mazlish, B. (eds.) (1996) Progress: Fact or Illusion? The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
Davis, E. (1999) Techgnosis: Myth, Magic + Mysticism in the Age of Information. Serpent’s Tail, London.
Stivers, R. (1999) Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational. Continuum Pub Group.
Album, D. (1991) [The prestige of diseases and medical specialities]. Tidsskr Nor Lœgeforen 111: 2127–33.
Blume, S.S. (1992) Insight and Industry. On the Dynamics of Technological Change in Medicine, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA.
Mørland, B. (1999) [Assessment of new technology in continuous change]. In Norwegian, The Norwegian Centre for Health Technology Assessment, Oslo.
Hofmann, B. (2001) The technological invention of disease, Journal of Medical Ethics: Medical Humanities 27: 10–19.
Heidegger M. (1954) Die Frage nach der Technik, in: Heidegger M. Vorträge und Aufsätze. Pfullingen: Günther Neske. Translated by William Lovitt under the title “The question Concerning Technology” (1977) in: The Question Concerning technology and Other Essays. Harper & Row, San Francisco.
Ihde, D. (1990) Technology and The Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis.
About this article
Cite this article
Hofmann, B. The myth of technology in health care. SCI ENG ETHICS 8, 17–29 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-002-0030-5
- technological imperative