Taking the Medicine, By Druin Burch

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The Independent Culture

Though some pages may require a mild anaesthetic, this is a gripping history of the blundering progress of medicine, by an Oxford hospital doctor. He is not the first medic to express doubts.

In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes, professor of anatomy, advanced the view that puerperal fever was spread to women in childbirth by medical attendants: "I had rather [they] should be delivered unaided in a stable than that they should receive the best help in the fairest apartment but exposed to the vapours of this pitiless disease." Even today, Burch insists, aspirin is wrongly seen as a cure rather than the treatment of a symptom.