Intended for healthcare professionals

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Reviews Book

Doctors' Errors and Mistakes of Medicine: Must Health Care Deteriorate?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:58

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Dear Sir,

I am amused at the interpretation of the present day medical world as
health care world by the learned reviewer of this book.
Doctors do not have anything to do with health care at all. We try to mend
the broken glass with some glue that we think would make it work again.

“To believe that doctors and hospitals help keep people healthy is plain
rubbish,” wrote one of the great British physicians. “How to avoid modern
medicine” is the title of an article written by Lord Platt in the early

“More people make a living OFF hypertension than die OF it,” wrote Sir
George Pickering, a former Regius Professor of medicine in Oxford, who
also taught for sometime at the Johns Hopkins. He was a great
hypertensinologist who had written that great monograph on hypertension.

He also wrote that the anti-hypertensive drugs robbed the patient of all
that is enshrined in the American Constitution (Thomas Jefferson 1772) of
“life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Life", Sir George said, "we are
not sure, liberty patient does not have, and happiness would be a thing of
the past!” How true?

Richard Asher, that great clinician who spent four decades teaching
medicine at the Central Middlesex Hospital, London, wrote: “Riva Roci
would grieve indeed, if he were to look at the abuse and misuse of the
little box that he invented to make life miserable for human beings.” The
BP apparatus that he was talking about. All this was long before the “HOT
Study” and the ALLAHAT study.

We are not told why the HOT study was prematurely stopped and the results
analysed by “intention-to-treat” analysis while quite a few patients that
started the study had dropped off by then because of intolerable side

Re-analysis of the famous UKPDS study showed how the authors were “seeing
what they wanted to see” in the study.
“Eye of the Beholder”, is a good re-analysis of the “good” that bypass
surgeries were supposed to do.

CAST study showed that all that glitters is not gold.
Statins are made out to be a panacea for all ills.
It looks as if there is a pill for every ill; while in reality, it is the
other way round. Every pill has an ill, if not more, following it!

A recent analysis of the immediate post MI revascularization showed that
“getting admitted after a heart attack to a hospital was the greatest risk
factor for stroke. This risk was much greater than hypertension, diabetes
Swan-Ganz catheters, albumin infusions and, some key-hole surgeries have
all come to grief sooner than expected.
AIDS research is four times “richer” than cancer research!
Health needs very few things: clean drinking water for all mankind, three
square healthy meals uncontaminated, clean surroundings for dwelling,
tranquility of mind, and moderate exercise on a regular basis. None of
these are the concern of modern medicine.

Health is our birth right. Our inbuilt immune system will keep us going as
long as it could. In the unlikely event of it failing only should doctors
intervene to “cure rarely, comfort mostly, but console always.” Modern
medicine’s biggest curse has been “not letting the well alone.” Screening
the healthy for early diseases and intervening has been the bane of modern
medicine although it has been a boon to the industry-the medi-business.
When healthy never go to a hospital. One should see his/her doctor at the
first sign of anything going astray with one’s body or mind.
The greatest discovery of science in this century has been the discovery
of man’s ignorance.

Yours ever,


Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

22 July 2004
BM Hegde
Retd. Vice Chancellor
Mangalore-575004. Inida