The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine

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9780786709670: The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine

In the years following World War II, medicine won major battles against smallpox, diphtheria, and polio. In the same period it also produced treatments to control the progress of Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia. It made realities of open-heart surgery, organ transplants, test-tube babies. Unquestionably, the medical accomplishments of the postwar years stand at the forefront of human endeavor, yet progress in recent decades has slowed nearly to a halt. In this winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, medical doctor and columnist James Le Fanu both surveys the glories of medicine in the postwar years and analyzes the factors that for the past twenty-five years have increasingly widened the gulf between achievement and advancement: the social theories of medicine, ethical issues, and political debates over health care that have hobbled the development of vaccines and discovery of new "miracle" cures. While fully demonstrating the extraordinary progress effected by medical research in the latter half of the twentieth century, Le Fanu also identifies the perils that confront medicine in the twenty-first. 16 pages of black-and-white photographs add to what the Los Angeles Times cited as "a sobering, contrarian challenge" to the "nostrum of medicine as a never-ending font of ‘miracle cures'." "[From] a respected science writer ... important information that ... has been overlooked or ignored by many physicians." —New Republic "Provocative and engrossing and informative." —Houston Chronicle "Marvelously written, meticulously researched ... one of the most thought-provoking and important works to appear in recent years." —Choice

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About the Author:

James Le Fanu is a GP in South London, who writes a weekly medical column for both the SUNDAY and DAILY TELEGRAPHs and regular features for THE TIMES.

Review:

Stand by for a brilliant read ... will send your heart palpitating and your blood pressure rising from the start' DAILY MAIL 'Has the great knack of making even the most complex technical developments exciting and intelligible' OBSERVER 'A major achievement' THE TABLET 'Epic and entertaining.' THE LANCET 'Dr Le Fanu writes with clarity and authority... you'll nowhere find a better crafted and more expert account of how modern medicine helps ensure that the great jaority of us live to a ripe old age...erudite and absorbing.' Professor Roy Porter, OBSERVER 'The struggles, disappointments and fatal errors of these early pioneers are described with zest, authority and a special brand of wry humour...it is an endlessly fascinating read.' FINANCIAL TIMES 'Well written, a fascinating and informative book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in contemporary medicine.' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'A masterly history of these revolutionary years.' THE TIMES 'The ambition of this, the first historical account of this period, is admirably justified throughout. Le Fanu communicates complex material in a clear and straightforward fashion while taking care, wearing his journalistic cap atop his white coat, never to let the abundant scientific facts stand in the way of what is a rattlingly good story.' SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 'A fascinating overview.' DAILY EXPRESS 'This well-written, extremely readable, and thought-provoking book deserves to be widely read, especially by those in the establishment who would say he is wrong.' BRITISH JOURNAL OF GENERAL PRACTICE 'This book is well worth reading just for the brilliant pen portraits of Le Fanu's 12 definitive moments of medical advance...the author has a way of encapsulation that is full of insights and unusual detail.' SPECTATOR 'The tales are well told, and should be read by all juniors to give them some feeling of the excitement felt by their grandparents as major diseases that had seemed totally untreatable come under control.' JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL SOCIEETY OF MEDICINE 'Take this book on holiday--it's a gripping story full of drama and suspense, heroes and villains and, despite charting dark periods when evil triumphed over virtue, has an optimistic message at the end. James Le Fanu has an enviable talent for making medical history fascinating and has produced a story about medicine's rise and fall since the Second World War that will surprise, intrigue and shock you. He claims that in a period of intense innovation between 1940 and 1970 medicine conquered all the major chronic diseases affecting the very young and the very old. With only the much rarer conditions that effect very small numbers of the population in middle life left to address, the revolution dramatically slowed down and innovation almost came to a halt. Medicine looked subsequently for new frontiers but went up blind alleys, "The New Genetics" and "The Social Theory" of disease. Neither of these new "paradigms" have produced the same level of innovation and are responsible in part for bringing medicine into disrepute. Despite enormous levels of funding, understanding the "code of life" has not produced any major therapeutic pay-offs, because genetically caused diseases--with only a few exceptions--are rare; genetic engineering and screening proved largely fruitless and genetic therapy made little impact. Theories that social behaviour causes disease, however, has not just been shown to be invalid but has also caused an epidemic itself of health hysteria amongst the well and resulted in blaming the sick for contracting their disease. He regards social theories such as the false idea that high- fat diets cause heart attacks as intellectual scandals that should be apologised for. Perhaps his most controversial suggestion is that all university epidemiological departments should be closed down in order to prevent any further misinformation from being produced. But Fanu offers criticism of as well as praise for clinical practitioners, and scientists too. He suggests that doctors need to start listening to patients again and interpreting histories instead of ordering barrages of tests if they want medicine to regain respect. And clinical science needs to start trying to discover the biological transmissible agents of the diseases of middle-life if it is to awaken to a new dawn of innovation in the future.' - Dorothy Porter, Amazon.co.uk

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