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BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 20 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2857
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

We are inclined to suppose that our contemporary problems and discontents are entirely new and unprecedented, but when we look into the records we come to precisely the opposite, and no doubt equally unwarranted, conclusion: that there is nothing new under the sun.

Malpractice suits, for example, are not new. In 1870 the man who was to become the first professor of orthopaedic surgery in the United States, Lewis A Sayre (1820-1900), was sued by the parents of Margaret Walsh, a little girl on whom he operated in 1868. He published at his own expense the proceedings of the trial, which vindicated him, under the title The Alleged Malpractice Suit of Walsh v Sayre.

The little girl aged 6 was …

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