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The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 15 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:606
  1. Boleslav L Lichterman, Centre for the History of Medicine (
  1. Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Moscow, Russia

    Gerald N Grob

    Harvard University Press, $35/£23.50, pp 349

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    ISBN 0 674 00881 2

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    At a recent bioethical meeting, Beat Sitter-Liver from the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences said that the concept of finitude (a term borrowed from the philosopher Martin Heidegger, meaning the limits of human existence) was virtually non-existent in the United States. For example, Americans seem to think that the possibilities of medicine are unlimited. Gerald Grob's history of disease in the United States echoes this assumption. He writes, “In our modern Western culture we have grown accustomed to the belief that all things are possible and that humans can completely control their destiny.” But such faith “is at best harmless and at worst a dangerous utopian illusion,” he adds.

    Grob, who teaches medical history at Rutgers University in New Jersey, calls his book “a product …

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