Views & Reviews Between the Lines

War and development

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 25 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4328
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

How many lives have been saved, and how many quality adjusted life years obtained, from the medical advances occasioned by war? It would be obscene, even for a health economist, to work it out, yet there is little doubt that war has occasioned such advances, especially in traumatology. Plastic surgery in particular, advanced by the work of Sir Archibald McIndoe (1900-60) during the second world war. One of his patients was Richard Hillary (1919-43), whose memoir, The Last Enemy, was published in 1942 and was instantly recognised as a minor classic.

Hillary was a student at Oxford when the war broke out and he joined the air force. He was a fighter pilot with five enemy planes to his credit …

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