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Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm since Hippocrates Hardcover – July 20, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0192803559 ISBN-10: 0192803557 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803559
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 0.8 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


`Stimulating and unorthodox' Literary Review

`Anyone with an involvement with medicine - and that means anyone with a body and a brain - should read this brilliant, bracing and erudite book.' Seamus Sweeney,

A genuinely thrilling adventure...An emotionally and intellectually gripping drama.

Explosive new book..important book

`A very stimulating and thought provoking book' Theodore Dalrymple, Sunday Telegraph

`Lucid [and] elegantly written... an inspiring account of individual accomplishment' Will Cohu, Daily 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.

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

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
We are proud of humanity's progress in medicine. We like our doctors; they are consistently among the professions that the public trusts the most. There are countless books on histories of medicine, citing a proud tradition from Hippocrates on down to the latest in gene therapy. Doctors gradually but eagerly advanced to take in new techniques and new science to get us where we are today. Except this did not happen. "For 2,400 years patients have believed that doctors were doing them good; for 2,300 years they were wrong." The unsparingly pessimistic view of the overwhelming failures of doctors is that of David Wootton, a professor of history who has written _Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates_ (Oxford University Press). The world has adopted the scientific method as the way of getting information and using it, but before the dawn of germ theory, there was only a firm hold on medical traditions, and the traditions were wrong. Even worse, in many cases medical treatment became more dangerous over time, as in the case of nineteenth century hospitals causing the deaths of mothers in childbirth far more effectively than independent midwives could do. This is a grim story, and if we are past the centuries of medicine-as-tradition, there are still reasons to think that doctors may be addicted to doing the things they do because that's what they have always done.

For a couple of thousand years, medicine was based on Hippocrates and his successors, especially Galen, whose theories dealt with balancing bodily fluids, and to help nature along, doctors would induce vomiting or diarrhea, apply hot irons to the body, or drain off some blood. There was no physiological benefit in such treatments, which could do nothing but make things worse.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. B. V. Pol on December 25, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding book and a must-read for all physicians. Easy to read, and a real page turner. As a physician myself, it is both gratifying to see how much some things have changed over the centuries (the application of the scientific method to medicine) and shocking to see how some things have not (the personality traits of physicians and their resistance to the scientific practice of medicine). Well referenced with great in-text quotes from the primary literature. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bill Baehr on October 31, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reading this book increased my lack of confidence in the competence of the medical industry. Author's conclusions about bad medicine seem to me to also apply to many other "professional" fields as well like education and law. Human nature loves not having to think and wallowing in ignorance no matter how dire the consequences. The most telling quote form the book was, "All the evidence suggests that the delay in formulating a practical germ theory has its origin not within microbiology but outside it. The chief obstacle was that doctors were satisfied with their existing therapies; the barriers to progress were psychological and cultural not intellectual."

Wootton, David (2006-06-22). Bad Medicine : Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates (Kindle Locations 4222-4224). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

They were satisfied with existing therapies no matter how often those therapies caused death and prevented progress. What satisfied therapies of the modern medical industry do you think may be causing deaths and preventing progress today?
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