B— strikes back:
I’m not sure Latour would say that the doctors were right. Clearly, whatever the symptoms were, the symptomatology put together by the doctors didn’t resist the “trial of strength” that characterizes any realization process. The disease was thus translated from fact to fiction. That was a real translation, so let's be more specific: the movement from fact to fiction was real in the sense that it was realized and cannot easily be undone. This specific translation made it a realized fact that he did not have a disease. The future of his symptomatology, however, remains to be seen, realization is always an empirical question. You never know what diseases are coming your way. According to Latour, "reality is that which resists". However, in Latour’s framework there is no transcendent position outside this reality. Most Latour-followers thus prefer to trace the concrete trials of strength through which subjects and objects are constituted, instead of starting out with assuming that they are fixed entities, already out there to begin with.
I have edited her response lightly already, but let's see if we can't make it even clearer.
Latour would not say that the doctors were right. Clearly, their diagnosis did not pass the “trial of strength” that characterizes a realization process. The disease was translated from fact to fiction and this translation was real in the sense that it cannot easily be undone. The future of the disease, however, remains to be seen; realization is always an empirical question. According to Latour, "reality is that which resists" but this does not imply a transcendent position outside this reality. Instead of assuming that subjects and objects are "out there" to begin with as fixed entities, Latour prefers to trace the concrete trials of strength through which subjects and objects are constituted.
Notice that this statement is written as a passive observer of realizations (a "tracer" of concrete trials) rather than a participant in them (a doctor or patient trying to realize the disease in different ways). The "empiricism" of the doctor-patient relationship is different in precise proportion to the stakes. Whether or not the patient has a disease and therefore requires an operation to deal with the symptoms is "an empirical question" in a different sense than that suggested by Latour.
The classical realist assumes precisely that the object (i.e., the disease, i.e., the cause of the symptoms) and the subjects (i.e., the patient and his doctors who are trying to understand the object) are "out there" before the question is raised. They are given by what Michel Foucault might call "the historical a priori". They have something "at stake" in the diagnosis before a given translation and/or realization occurs. (One complaint about Latour is that there nothing at stake for him when he denies the transcendent position of the disease.)
The independent (and arguably "transcendent") position of the cause of the symptoms (the "facts" of the case, the "nature" of the disease) is what allows the patient to seek a second, third, and fourth opinion. If Teppo had allowed the first three doctors to "construct" his disease for him (as the classical parody of social constructivism goes), he would have let them operate. This would, in one sense, have "realized" his symptoms as the disease they had named.
But he didn't. And Teppo's point, as I understand it, is that the "trial of strength" did not play out between the doctors and the patient but between the symptoms and their cause. He ignored the advice of the doctors and the so-called "disease" went away (not much of a disease!). This was, in an important sense, risky. If the doctors had been right, he might have suffered terribly; reality would have struck back against him rather than his doctors.
Teppo's story arguably shows that there are real, empirical questions beyond those that Latour answers in hindsight. I say "arguably" for a reason. As Latour would insist, Teppo has cut the story off at a time when his hypothesis can be declared the victor. He writes history from that point of view. But to insist on this is precisely to insist that the doctors may not "really" have been wrong: whether they were remains Latour's "empirical" question. So perhaps Latour's ontology is simply a refusal ever to settle empirical questions?
I'll leave that as a question.