The Glitz Cure

Sherwin B. Nuland in The New Republic:

Book When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine by Barron H Lerner.

Since its beginnings some two and a half millennia ago, Western medicine — which would grow into the scientific medicine of the past few centuries — had been characterized by a relationship between doctor and patient that might be called beneficent paternalism, in which the physician determined what was best for the patient, who was expected to comply with all recommendations.

Enter the 1960s and the self-determination movement. For the first time in their long history of authority, the leaders of medicine were being asked — or more precisely, told — to re-evaluate their basic premise of authority, their presumption of effectiveness, and even their benevolence. Barron H. Lerner’s book is centered around the transformative events affecting medical practice that came into focus in and around the late 1960s, and the consequences of the new medical ethics. The story that Lerner tells is of the laity’s increasing involvement in matters traditionally left to the profession, including the lessening of its certainty of benevolence and scientific infallibility. Ultimately, the book issues an appeal of sorts — to both doctors and patients — hoping to ensure that a well-informed public will continue to make reasonable demands on scientists and physicians that can only result in “progress toward human community.”

More here.