MACK LIPKIN, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Is the patient's illness functional or organic? No question is asked more often in medical clinics. When students or clinicians are prodded about the sense in which the terms are used, the definitions usually consist of a groping for other language. "Organic" seems to be equated with the presence of a demonstrable structural alteration or established biochemical change, preferably with a specific cause. "Functional" seems to imply "psychogenic" or "psychologically determined" or "neurotic."
But the greater the care used in examining the two terms, the less meaning they seem to have. Indeed, they bring to mind Goethe's wry comment that
LIPKIN M. Functional or Organic? A Pointless Question. Ann Intern Med. ;71:1013–1017. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-71-5-1013
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1969;71(5):1013-1017.
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