Views & Reviews Review

History on a knife edge

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1362 (Published 20 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1362
  1. Harold Ellis, emeritus professor of surgery, University of London

    The new series looking at the brutal and dangerous history of surgery is instructive—and often amusing, finds Harold Ellis

    The history of medicine is a fascinating subject, and undoubtedly it is the surgical aspects of this topic that appeal most to the lay television audience. The drama of the operating theatre, steely eyes over the white face mask, has lost none of its fascination in spite of countless programmes of both fact and fiction.

    This latest contribution to the history of surgery, a series of five one hour programmes on BBC Four, is ambitious and interesting. It will intrigue the lay audience and, on the whole, its viewers in the health professions. It is presented throughout by the medical journalist Michael Mosley, who is medically qualified and who confesses that, as a student, he wanted to be a surgeon. He is cheerful and interesting and spares himself not at all in illustrating his material. He has a leech suck his blood, is hypnotised (he is an excellent subject), sniffs ether (nasty) and chloroform (pleasant), and gets drunk on vodka. He …

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