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Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine's Beautiful Idea, and Our Difficulty Swallowing It Paperback – Bargain Price, February 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating history of the development of clinical trials and the thinking behind them."  —Literary Review

"A valuable inoculation against complacency."  —New Scientist

"Both an assault on the myths of the infallible doctor and a history of pharmacology . . . Burch makes a compelling case."  —Sunday Telegraph

"Each chapter is a self-contained pleasure to read, like mini-fables on the perils of medicine."  —Sunday Times

About the Author

Druin Burch is a hospital doctor and the author of Digging Up the Dead.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Random House UK (July 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845951506
  • ASIN: B005HKV2SC
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,575,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Read on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled on this brilliant book by accident. In an uninspiring airport bookshop, Taking the Medicine was the only thing which looked remotely like brain food. And WOW. Seldom have I read such a page-turner. Months later, I am still thinking about it. The publisher has done an amazing job of under-marketing this gem.

There is indeed much in it about medicine. But the overarching theme is bigger. It is an extraordinarily powerful case for the scientific method. For thousands of years, people calling themselves physicians and doctors have embodied the very essence of NOT-science, working instead on the basis of personal experience, half-baked theory, anecdotes, and wisdom handed down from eminent people. Most physicians still do. And, as this book shows, millions died as a consequence. And they continue to do so, even this century, in the US. If you have ever wondered what science really is about, or if you think science is just common sense, read this book. Burch paints a really startling picture of the lethal mess that can be generated by other ways of knowing.

Andrew Read PhD
Professor of Biology and Entomology, Penn State University
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carl Bartecchi on June 17, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Taking the Medicine is an outstanding book which should be read by everyone involved with health care. Physicians and especially those in training to be physicians need to read this book. Many of the mistakes that have been made in medicine, from the earliest days and even until today could have been avoided if we were only able to learn from the mistakes of others that have gone before us. Burch nicely reviews a critical sampling of those mistakes. He discusses the history of the development of the all important randomised, controlled, clinical trials that have helped medicine to advance to it's present state of effectiveness, though still not without problems. Left unsaid is the alternative medicine establishment that appears threatened by such trials, favoring personal experiences and patient commentaries, both of which prove to be unreliable and destined to lead one astray. For the medical as well as the lay reader, Burch provides a wonderful history of therapies and how they came to be developed. Obviously well researched, this book provides many new and fascinating takes on medicines and how they came to be accepted by the medical community and utilized, though not always appropriately. New and often not so complementary insights into those who were once considered medical heroes are provided with discussions of how and where they went wrong.
Burch writes well and has proven capable of holding one's attention throughout the text.I will strongly recommend this book to the medical students that I teach.
Carl E. Bartecchi, M.D.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Carol S. on May 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This would be a depressing recital of human stubbornness and hubris, but for the dry sense of humor the author lends to his premise. It certainly has some painful moments, but Druin Burch handles them with sensitivity and a sincere attempt to educate the reader by shedding some light into medicine's dark closet. It is a thorough examination of how the medical profession failed, miserably, for far longer than most of us image; and how it is still prone to failure. The author also includes inspiring accounts of how reason, against heavy opposition, finally prevailed over received wisdom. It's a lesson pertinent to the medical profession, and to the layman as well, but it is also an acid commentary on the intellectual short-comings of the smartest beings on the planet. I could hardly put it down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is entertaining medical history that illustrates how slow and fitful the use of scientific method has been in medicine. Not only have doctors been wrong more than right about whether treatments help, we have resisted or failed to understand the kind of information that would help us know better. Burch's message, leavened with humor and fascinating digressions, is that we can not judge the effects of most treatments (some people get better, some don't) without prospective, controlled studies of sufficient size. Authority and experience are hopelessly biased and unable to correct errors. For that we need the numbers, but no statistical knowledge is needed to enjoy this delightful book.
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