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Books, Journals, New Media
December 22/29, 2004

Health

Author Affiliations
 

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2004;292(24):3032-3038. doi:10.1001/jama.292.24.3035

Nortin Hadler, MD, is a philosopher as well as a consummate physician. His books shatter preconceived ideas and are often iconoclastic. But like a veteran umpire, he calls ‘em as he sees them. Much of what modern medicine advocates bears scrutiny, and Hadler examines it critically and marshals facts to support his views. The Last Well Person, written for the patient, or the person who thinks of becoming one, is must reading for the public and for physicians.

Many years ago at Cornell Medical College, I taught an elective honors course entitled “The Humours,” dealing with procedures and concepts that had been relegated to the proverbial dustbin. The concept of phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, and melancholic humours, thought to course through the system and, where concentrated, create disease, had therapeutic consequences such as bleeding and purging and isolation in noisome wards for mental derangements. Most archaic treatments have disappeared, but they have been supplanted by others that may, in future retrospect, seem no more supportable. This book reminds me of that course, as Hadler applies Occam’s razor to today’s shibboleths and raises pertinent questions that most of us do not ask.

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