Almost a century and a half latter medicine has not changed greatly from the way Tolstoy described it:
“What would Sonya and the Count and Countess have done, how could they have gone on watching the weak and languishing Natasha, had there been nothing for them to do, had there not been those pills to administer by the clock, the warm drinks, the chicken patties, and all the rest of the regimen prescribed by the doctors, the carrying out of which kept them occupied and provided consolation? The more meticulous and complex the orders, the more comfort they afforded the members of the family. How would the Count have borne his beloved daughter’s illness had he not known it was costing thousands of rubles, and that he would not grudge thousands more to benefit her; or had he not known that if she did not recover he would not grudge the additional thousands take her abroad for consultation; or had he not been able to explain in detail to people how Métivier and Feller were baffled by the symptoms, but Friez had understood them and Mudrov has been still more successful in making a diagnosis? What would the Countess have done had she not been able to scold the invalid now and then for not following to the letter all the doctors instructions?
“You will never get well like this,” she would say, finding refuge from her grief in vexation, “if you won’t obey the doctor and take your medicine when you should! You can’t trifle with this, you know, or it may turn into pneumonia,” she would go on, deriving great comfort from the utterance of this word, which was incomprehensible to others as well as to herself.
What would Sonya have done without the gratified consciousness that she had not had her clothes off for the first three nights, in order to be ready to carry out all the doctors injunctions promptly, and that she still kept awake at night so as not to miss the proper time for giving Natasha the not very harmful pills in the little guilt box?
Even Natasha herself, though she declared that no medicine can do her any good and that it was all nonsense, was pleased to see so many sacrifices being made for her, and to know that she had to take the medicine at specified hours. And it was even pleasant to be able to show, by disregarding the orders, that she did not believe in medical treatment and did not value her life.
The doctor came every day, took her pulse, looked at her tongue, and disregarding her dejected face, joked with her. But afterward, when he had gone into the next room, to which the Countess hastily followed him, he assumed a grave air, and thoughtfully shaking his head, observed that though the patient was in critical condition, he had hopes of the efficacy of this last medicine, that they must wait and see, that the malady was more mental than… And the Countess, trying to conceal the gesture from herself as well as from him, would slip a gold coin into his hand and return to the sick room with a lighter heart.”
War and Peace Book III, Part One, Chapter 16