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Pathology and radiology taking medical ‘hermeneutics’ to the next level?
  1. Runjan Chetty
  1. Correspondence to Professor Runjan Chetty, Department of Pathology, Laboratory Medicine Programme, University Health Network, Toronto General Hospital, 200 Elizabeth Street, 11th Floor, Eaton Wing, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 2C4; runjan.chetty{at}

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Pathology and radiology are underpinned by image interpretation and analysis, using the most substratal fundamental yardstick of their function. Hermeneutics refers to interpretation (originally the interpretation of religious scriptures), especially the science and methodological principles of interpretation. The analysis and interpretation of images in pathology and radiology have been somewhat doctrine-driven, and using hermeneutics in a metaphorical manner in this context is perhaps appropriate. Radiologists and pathologists have clung to the romantic notion that they interpret the chiaroscuro of images presented before them, the tenebrosi of medicine.

Recently, both pathology and radiology have been the subjects of discussion, with the application of artificial and/or alternative means being touted as potential replacement for medical specialists in both specialties.

In November 2015, Levenson and colleagues wrote the provocatively titled paper: ‘Pigeons (Columbia livia) as trainable observers of pathology and radiology breast cancer images’.1

While the authors concluded that these volitant artistes of pathology/radiology image interpretation might ‘help us better understand human medical image perception’, the unwritten subtext and perception was that feathered, bird-brained purveyors of image interpretation do as good a good job as opposed to their cerebrally better endowed Homo sapien relatives.

This publication led to a flurry of comments and jocular gybes directed at pathologists and radiologists chiefly aimed at them …

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  • Contributors RC is the sole contributor of this viewpoint, responsible for the idea and authorship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.