Wooton, D. Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates

Stephen Bradley HYMS: Not to be confused with Ben Goldacre’s book, this is by a York academic and gives a revisionist take on the history of medicine. Particularly interesting is the way he demonstrates how Doctors have often been quite reactionary and slow to adopt new techniques when it threatened their professional identity (e.g. surgeons reluctance to use anaesthetic for 50 years because tradition dictated that a good surgeon was someone who could work fast and endure the patient’s screams). Also shows how in statistical terms health services and doctors make a fairly marginal difference to public health.

For a link to the authors university website click here – there is also an excellent website dedicated to the book with reviews, debate and further links
Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 0199212791

Viewer Comments:


Just finished this – its a good read and full of surprises (like ‘who’ discovered penicilin), along with some old friends (whole chapter on Dr John Snow). The section that made me think most was probably the chapter on vivisection, and the harm doctors have caused to animals in the past. Whilst on a personal level I have always seen experimentation on animals as justfiable, it is good to have those ideas challenged and tested.

I also liked the fact that the book is better received by doctors than by historians, some of whom apparently baulk at the idea of a history of ‘progress’.

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