Despite enormous progress in the understanding and treatment of disease during the 20th century, the amount of care individuals receive from health professionals is arguably less than in previous decades. Being in the presence of caring people who practised human caring has always been the bedrock of services to individuals who were ill. With the rise of scientific positivism in the mid-19th century, traditional ways of caring for sick people, not susceptible to scientific investigation and intervention, were either abandoned or discouraged. The spread of outcome-orientated health services has led to care being redefined as the provision of the finest form of treatment that is financially viable. The spectre of a service in which the human dimension of caring is either prescribed or seen as invalid gives cause for concern. This paper argues for urgent re-examination of what we understand by 'care'.