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Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates Hardcover – 22 Jun 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1 edition (22 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803559
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,003,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

David Wootton is an historian, author of Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, and Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates. You can learn more about him at www.watcheroftheskies.org.

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Review

A sad but fascinating story of centuries of missed opportunities, unnecessary suffering and misplaced faith in outlandish remedies. (Nick Rennison, Sunday Times Culture)

The historical catastrophe of medicine has never been so excitingly and stirringly told. (Druin Birch, Times Literary Supplement)

David Wotton [creates] a genuinely thrilling adventure out of the abysmal failings of doctors over the past 2000 years. (Druin Birch, Times Literary Supplement)

A very stimulating and thought-provoking book. (Theodore Dalrymple, Sunday Telegraph)

Ought to be required reading for every first year medical student. (British Medical Journal)

lucid, elegantly written and pleasingly slim book (Will Cohu, Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

David Wootton is Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York. He has published widely in early modern intellectual history, particularly on the history of political thought, and is a regular reviewer for the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 4 July 2008
Format: Paperback
A history of medicine with a difference. This book tells more of the failures than of the triumphs and it is all the more richer for that. Medicine should have progressed faster than it did but to blame doctors entirely is not quite giving the whole picture. Similarly there some things that Wooton says that seem wrong in their entirety and putting the start date of medicine in the late eighteen hundred is a little disingenuous and ignores some of the early pioneers. Wooton's dismissal of the early medical profession is a little too arbitrary and the book could have used some better scholarship in backing the arguments it makes. Similarly ignoring economics and politics is also perhaps a little foolhardy especially when debating the dangers of smoking. Wooton manages to have this debate without mentioning Big Tobacco and their lobbies. Nevertheless this is an interesting social history of medicine and one that deserves to be read by all.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By S. Harding on 24 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a well written and thought provoking book. It is supported by a website that is insightful and allows further investigation into some of the aspects raised within the book.

It is not a bash at doctors, but does lay out the history and progression of medicine in a new and fresh way. When I was reading it I spent time laughing and time feeling quite repulsed by some of the things that we have done in the name of medicine.

All I can say is READ it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By WillDavies on 31 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
What makes a history readable? Normally for me it's being structured around a biography. Here it's just the vivid narrative. Wootton tells the surprising story of doctors, as his subtitle says, doing more harm than good. It's pithy, persuasive and superbly readable. I couldn't get my nose out of the pages, and it's one of the few books (even amongst those I've enjoyed greatly) that have stayed very much in my mind ever since. Thoroughly recommended, and no particular knowledge or interest is required from the reader - just a willingness to be absorbed in a terrific historical story.
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Format: Paperback
Aptly described as 'explosive' by the British Medical Journal, Bad Medicine is a four-chapter thriller written by accomplished British historian David Wootton. Perhaps quite fairly, the book portrays medicine as having a dark history, both in terms of inadequate theorising for centuries but as time went on a reluctance to match therapy with the newfound, evidence-based medical theory.

Wootton begins with an entertaining (albeit at times depressing) narrative of the Hippocratic (Greek) Tradition, based on the now out-of-date humoural theory: the body was delicately balanced between the four humours of bile, black bile, blood and phlegm, and diseases were caused by a disturbance of the humoural balance or a corruption of a humour (so-called peccant humour). The way this would happen would be via an influx of the unnaturals such as diet and the environment. As a result, to restore the balance and/or 'fix' the corrupted humour, since all four humours were found in the blood, bloodletting was the obvious (although not the only) solution. Bloodletting, well into the nineteenth, was widely perceived and practiced as the 'gold standard' for medical therapy. This could be done either by the practitioner himself or via the application of leeches (particularly popular method in France).

Wootton's writing style serves as an excellent example to both historians and philosophers: short, concise, clear and engaging sentences which are structured around the period or argument presented.

Whilst medicine changed structurally (patient-doctor relationship, location of treatment etc) modern medical theory does not really begin to take off until well into the nineteenth century. According to Wootton, medicine did not really start helping patients consistently until the 1860s.
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