By David Wootton
All of us face affliction and dying, and depend on the scientific occupation to increase our lives. but, David Wootton argues, from the 5th century BC until eventually the Nineteen Thirties, medical professionals really did extra damage than stable. during this debatable new account of the heritage of drugs, he asks simply how a lot sturdy it has performed us through the years, and what sort of damage it keeps to do this day.
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Extra resources for Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm since Hippocrates
Before 1865 all medicine was bad medicine, that is to say, it did far more harm than good. But 1865 did not usher in a new era of good medicine. For the three paradoxes of progress––ineﬀectual progress, immoral progress, progress postponed––are still at work. They may not work quite as powerfully now as they did before 1865, but they work more powerfully than we are prepared to acknowledge. There has been progress; but not nearly as much as most of us believe. In the ﬁnal chapter of the book I will try to measure the extent of the progress that has taken place.
The discovery of the circulation of the blood (1628), of oxygen (1775), of the role of haemoglobin (1862) made no diﬀerence; the discoveries were adapted to the therapy rather than vice versa. Textbook histories of medicine make it hard to understand this because they emphasize change not continuity. And they just assume or assert that bloodletting was phased out early in the nineteenth century when in fact it continued long afterwards. Thus they try to elide a basic fact: if you look at therapy, not theory, then ancient medicine survived more or less intact into the middle of the nineteenth century and beyond.
On the other hand the heart, the arteries, and the veins represent systems over which the mind has no control, systems of involuntary action. This involved distinguishing terms that, for the followers of Hippocrates, had been near-equivalents. For the ﬁrst Hippocratics the diﬀerence between pulses, palpitations, tremors, and spasms was merely one of scale: such tremblings could be seen in any part of the body. After Herophilus, the pulse (singular now instead of plural) occurred simultaneously and involuntarily in the heart and arteries; palpitations, tremors, and spasms were now aﬄictions of the nervous system, involuntary twitches of a system that should be under conscious control.