In this lively and hard-hitting book, Raymond Tallis, Professor of Geriatrics at Manchester University, surveys the current state of British medicine.
He points out how much we all gain from the NHS. Britain is top of nine Western countries in years of life expectancy added for each 1% of GDP spent on health; the USA is ninth. We get 2.5 more years of good health than Americans do. Since 1950, we have gained five extra years of life due to improved medical care under the NHS, and infant mortality has fallen by 80%.
Yet, as Tallis reminds us, much of the media relishes only bad news about health care, fostering a culture of contempt focused on scandal and personalities, and scaremongering to attack the NHS. He cites shoddy reporting by Jeremy Laurance, Melanie Phillips, Anthony Browne, Will Hutton and Simon Heffer.
Tallis analyses the assault on MMR vaccination, started by Dr Andrew Wakefield's article. This was a preliminary study of just twelve children, with no control group, so it could not prove a link with autism, let alone a cause. But Wakefield immediately called a press conference to urge abandoning the triple vaccine. Tallis rightly calls this utterly irresponsible.
The media highlighted Wakefield's claim and ignored further research - two British studies, a Danish study of half a million children, and a Finnish study of 1.8 million children - which proved that there was no more autism among vaccinated children than among non-vaccinated children. The Danish study also found no link between the development of autism and age at vaccination or time since vaccination.
Tallis also criticises Peter Duesberg, who irresponsibly claimed that AIDS was not due to a virus. The South African government has relied on this oft-refuted claim to justify its opposition to sex education, to condom use and to providing anti-retroviral drugs. This stupid policy has caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Among many other good things in this book, Tallis details the Labour-Tory abuse of the NHS through 'permanent revolution', concealing under-investment by over-organisation, and he exposes Labour's attack on the medical profession.