Personal Views

The great hijack

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 28 September 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:826
  1. Bernard Rabinowitz

    It is over 40 years since I qualified as a doctor and 35 since I was awarded the fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. As a student I read with enthusiasm about the revolution wrought by Pasteur, Jenner, and Lister. Later I was stirred as polio was defeated, diphtheria became a rarity, and smallpox vanished. We were taught and in turn passed on to our students the principles so decisively developed by these great men.

    Any epidemic imposes obligations on the doctor. We must diagnose, isolate, localise, and treat. An overriding concern is the protection of the uninfected. That is the modern and proved way to limit and end an outbreak of an infectious disease. Indeed, it is a catechism for even our junior students.

    In the early 1980s some hundred or more people who were immunocompromised came to light in the homosexual community in the United States. A diagnostic test was developed and an infecting agent was identified. Then modern medicine was …

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