Reviews Book

Hippocratic Oaths: Medicine and its Discontents

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 21 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:982
  1. Stuart W G Derbyshire, assistant professor (
  1. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, USA

    Contemporary books on health and medicine tend to have an apocalyptic bent, predicting or insinuating medical disaster and incompetence on an epidemic scale. Tallis bucks this trend describing the incredible historical achievements of medical science, the tremendous scope of contemporary knowledge and organisation, and the dedication and talent of those who wear the white coats. When Tallis describes the achievement of nearly eliminating river blindness from west Africa, he is partly stating the obvious—blindness is bad and seeing is good—but this message of triumph is delivered so rarely that the arrival is surprising. Tallis is also explaining that while improvements in housing, sanitation, and so forth have certainly contributed to human wellbeing, the contribution of medicine was and continues to be large.

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    Raymond Tallis

    Atlantic Books, £19.99, pp 342 ISBN 1 84354 126 2

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    Tallis is no Dr Pangloss, however. Hippocratic Oaths is a rare gem for its optimism but it arrives alongside a justified anger at the state and trajectory of British medicine. While part one of the book champions the progress of medical …

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