Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews Book

Second Opinion: Doctors, Diseases and Decisions in Modern Medicine

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 14 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:399
  1. Stuart W G Derbyshire (, assistant professor
  1. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, USA

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    Richard Horton

    Granta Books, £17.99, pp 582 ISBN 1 86207 587 5

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    Second Opinion paints a depressing view of the world. One section begins with an invitation to imagine a virus wiping out humanity. Later author Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, talks of “huge population pressure” producing “our own global hot zone.” Cities are “the graveyards of mankind” and society is “responsible for the accelerated evolution of infectious diseases.”

    In the battle with the mosquito, “the outlook for human beings is far from encouraging.” Bioterrorism “conjures up the prospect of imminent human self annihilation from technologically adept terrorists,” although ecological disaster or the tobacco or sugar industries might kill us first. In the middle of this we are facing an epidemic of HIV, yellow fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and West Nile disease, with the threat of Ebola looming large.

    This appalling situation is being met “recklessly” by governments that are sometimes apathetic and at other times zealous. Horton is clearly motivated to have health organisations pick up the slack, but …

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