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This penetrating study of medicine in our times addresses one of its most baffling paradoxes as it explores the widening gulf between achievement and advancement. For while the medical accomplishments of the postwar years stand at the front ranks of human endeavor, advances in medicine have recently slowed to a near halt. In the three decades after the war, medicine won the wars against polio and diphtheria. It developed treatments to control the progress of Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia. It made realities of open-heart surgery, organ transplants, test-tube babies. For thirty years clinical science, medical technology, and pharmaceutical innovation thrived. And then, abruptly, optimism faded. Social theories of medicine and the new genetics hobbled research. The apparently unstoppable forward march of modern medicine stopped.
This judicious volume compellingly illustrates both the power of the scientific method in pushing forward the boundaries of medical knowledge and the constraints posed on it by human vanities and the mysteries of biology.