Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Short History of Medecine

This is a rapid-fire, almost encyclopedic analysis of the key players and discoveries in the field of medicine. It goes around thematic areas, with coverage of the Greeks, Middle Ages, and even bits of Chinese and Native American medicine. Most time is spent on the modern medicine, with coverage of key players and inventions.

The approach is both positive and skeptical of the advancements in medicine. While acknowledging that medical advances have brought about improvements in quality of life, it also acknowledges that there is also a tendency to go too far in the use of medicine. There is also criticism of the 'de-personalization' of medicine today, with doctors using a corporate approach to the patient relationship. There is also a tendency of those profiting from different conditions to encourage more people to be 'diagnosed'.

History shows that the tendency to seek "medical" solutions goes back a long time. People expected doctors to help them, with minimal effort on their part. Even as solutions get more and more complicated, the placebo effect still plays a major role. Further advances often lead to the loss of previous techniques. (One example in the book was smelling of urine - previously doctors could quickly diagnose a problem with smell, while now it all goes to a lab, where it is only numbers that come back.) Do new advances really make things better, or simply make things more expensive? Is it really possible to eliminate "diseases"? Microbes will always evolve to get around our new defenses. Even if we eliminate most external problems, we may just see many additional currently ignored conditions as situations that need to be "cured". Regardless, it sounds like a full-employment act for the medical profession.

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