Thursday, 10 July 2008

Quackery Then & Now

There's a hilarious review in the latest Skeptic magazine of the book Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. The review summarises the book's basic story, which happens to be the tale of John R. Brinkley MD, "who transplanted goat glands into people, and of Morris Fishbein MD, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, who tried to stop him."

Hehe. Go here for the rest! My favourite bit:

His fame rose meteorically on the basis of testimonials, but his treatments were implausible, ineffective, and dangerous. At least 42 patients entered his hospital vertical and departed horizontal. Others survived surgery long enough to die at home, and others succumbed from using the quack remedies he sold via the radio. “[G]iven the Jurassic state of malpractice laws in Brinkley’s day” his medical license was a license to kill. His body count was higher than that of the worst serial killers. He advertised that his treatments worked wonders on 27 different ailments from emphysema to flatulence, with a 95% success rate. (It worked less well on “stupid types.”)

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