A Brief History of Bad Medicine
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was defined as a prescription given to satisfy a patient when there was no organic disorder but it was thought that a prescription was expected. It derives from the Latin verb placere meaning ‘to appease or placate’. The term was also used to refer to a substance with no pharmacological effect, made to appear indistinguishable from a real drug, and used in clinical trials in comparison with the real thing, to determine how far the effects of the new drug under trial were genuinely due to its
people knew about this remarkable and successful man was that in the early 1880s, while experimenting on himself with the then new drug cocaine to produce local anaesthesia, Halstead had become profoundly addicted to the drug. Working with a colleague, Richard J. Hall, they had repeatedly injected each other with cocaine solutions of different strengths so as to find out what doses were needed for surgical anaesthesia. In this, they were highly successful and made a major contribution to surgery.
exercised at his discretion. In 1887 Arthur Allbutt, a consultant physician in Leeds, wrote a little book called The Wife’s Handbook. It was principally about childcare, but there was a highly informative concluding chapter entitled ‘How to Prevent Conception’, in which Allbutt sought to discredit some of the useless contraceptive methods widely practised. Among these was the belief that the wife had only to sit up in bed after intercourse and cough to expel the semen, and that if the husband
least of these is the possibility of medication error. According to a classic study by Davis and Cohen, medication error in a typical American hospital not using a standard unit dose system of drug distribution is around 12 per cent. In a hospital with 300 patients, where each patient receives an average of ten doses of various drugs daily (the average adult is pumped full of around thirteen different drugs in various combinations) this comes to 131,400 medication errors annually, or 360 a day.
labia. Baker-Brown’s theories can be seen in one shape or another, popping up recurrently in the history of psychiatric treatment: the origin of what the age terms ‘insanity’ is traced to one organ, which can be lopped off, or chopped out. It is a question of finding which organ one believes the deviant personality to be located in. Then, it was the sexual organs, because masturbation was regarded with such horror, particularly in women, who were thereby achieving an illicit independence. Later,