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In praise of hunch backing

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 23 October 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1143
  1. Richard Lehman, general practitioner
  1. Banbury

    The backing of hunches in medicine seems to have fallen out of favour. So unfashionable are anecdote and opinion in these days of evidence based medicine and molecular genetics that the poor hunch backer may soon have to eke out a lonely, mad existence in the cathedral towers of medicine. Shunned by the Esmeraldas of funding, we will be forced to live on kindly gifts of bread and cheese, while we leap about groaning, “Why were we born so ugly?”

    Time was when hunches were the stuff of medicine. Ambroise Paré had a hunch that wounds might heal without boiling oil; John Hunter that soot might be bad for chimney sweepers' scrota; Will Pickles that common infectious diseases did not have the same incubation periods in Wensleydale as they had in textbooks. But through the centuries there also ride troops of medical knights whose hunches were wrong, but whose armour was proof …

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