Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm since Hippocrates

Synopsis

Just how much good has medicine done over the years, and how much harm does it continue to do? The history of medicine begins with Hippocrates in the fifth century BC. Yet until the invention of antibiotics in the 1930s doctors, in general, did their patients more harm than good. In this fascinating new look at the history of medicine, David Wootton argues that for more than 2300 years doctors have relied on their patients' misplaced faith in their ability to cure. Over and over again major discoveries which could save lives were met with professional resistance. And this isnot just a phenomenon of the distant past. The first patient effectively treated with penicillin was in the 1880s; the second not until the 1940s. There was overwhelming evidence that smoking caused lung cancer in the 1950s; but it took thirty years for doctors to accept the claim that smoking wasaddictive. In the 1960s there was the notorious thalidomide tragedy, while today there is the ongoing problem of unnecessary operations, especially in the United States - and this all at a time of rapidly rising healthcare costs. As Wootton graphically illustrates, throughout history and right upto the present, bad medical practice has often been deeply entrenched and stubbornly resistant to evidence. This is a bold and challenging book - and the first general history of medicine to acknowledge the frequency with which doctors do harm.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 2006

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