The Scepticaemic Surgeon: How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

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Michael Baum
Professor Emeritus of Surgery & Visiting Professor in Medical Humanities, University College London, UK

Series: World Philosophy
BISAC: PHI000000

Michel de Montaigne invented the literary term “essay” derived from the French word essai, meaning to put on trial. In his collection of essays he describes his life’s work in testing his responses to different subjects and situations, using his ego and alter ego as council for and against the case. In one such essay he writes, “Why do doctors begin by practising on the credulity of their patients with so many false promises of a cure, if not to call the powers of the imagination to the aid of their fraudulent concoctions?” It is hard to believe that this was written over 400 years ago, yet this book of essays in the style invented by Montaigne, is still addressing the same follies ascribed to 16th Century French citizens.

In 1764 Voltaire published his Dictionnaire philosophique in which he took the essay format one step further by adding his sardonic wit, to better illuminate the follies and fallacies of that époque.

One of his aphorisms that resonates 250 years on, went like this: “Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. It is not enough that a thing be possible for it to be believed”.

Thomas Browne, an English essayist of the same period attempted to understand the follies of mankind and their capacity of making “vulgar errors” in observation and belief. One was entitled “That a man hath one Rib less than a woman”. Christian orthodoxy of the day taught a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. It therefore followed that if Eve were fashioned from Adam’s rib, then Eve’s descendents would always have one more rib than Adam’s descendents. Browne doubted that and went to study anatomy in the Low Countries and made his business to count the number of ribs on both sides of the chest in male and female cadavers.

In this collection of essays Michael Baum follows in the footsteps of these giants of the Enlightenment a provides with a selection of his essays written over a period of more than 20 years where he challenges much of the received wisdom of the current era. Building on a foundation of scientific and moral philosophy he then carries out a hatchet job on the proponents of quackery. His scepticism then carries over in attacks on the closed minds of those who inhibit innovation and those who are stuck in the time warp of the uncritical acceptance of screening for cancer. Throughout this book it can be seen that he is guided by the teachings of medical humanities. In 1989 Dr.Petr Skrabanek published a book entitled “Follies and Fallacies in Medicine” continuing the tradition of the age of enlightenment where, for the first time, the pathological state of scepticaemia is defined as follows.

Scepticaemia: An uncommon generalized disorder of low infectivity. Medical school education is likely to confer life-long immunity.
We give early warning: take care in reading any further as the bug might infect you as well. (Imprint: Nova)

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Table of Contents

Forward
Clifford Hudis, M.D.

Preface

Introduction

Scientific and Moral Philosophy

Chapter 1. Karl Popper Memorial Lecture

Chapter 2. Plato’s Socratic Dialogues and the Epistemology of Modern Medicine
James May, Michael Baum and Susan Bewley

Chapter 3. Justice

Chapter 4. The Roles of the Learned Societies in Improving Quality of Life in the Context of Globalization

Chapter 5. Ethical Issues in Screening for Cancer

Chapter 6. The Use and Abuse of Human Tissue: An Analysis of the Ethical Issues Raised by the Proposed Human Tissue Act

Chapter 7. “Playing God – Jewish Perspectives on Cloning and Genetic Engineering”

Medical Humanities

Chapter 8. The re-emerging role of the Humanities in the education of medical Undergraduates

Chapter 9. Evidence Based Art?

Chapter 10. Book Review for JRoyal Soc Med

Chapter 11. The Art of Oncology: The Changing Faces of Breast Cancer Treatment

Alternative Medicine

Chapter 12. An Open Letter to HRH the Prince of Wales: With respect your Highness you’ve got it wrong

Chapter 13. Book review “Whole person care: A new Paradigm for the 21st Century”

Chapter 14. Concepts of Holism in Orthodox and Alternative Medicine
The Samuel Gee Lecture

Chapter 15. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) within the National Health Service

Chapter 16. Can We Sustain an Open-Minded Approach to Homeopathy?

Chapter 17. Homeopathy Waives the Rules-OK?

Chapter 18. Magic Mushrooms and Bent Spoons: That Was the Week That Was!

Chapter 19. The Scam of Integrative Medicine

Chapter 20. An Unusual Opportunity to Study the “Natural History” of Hormone Sensitive Breast Cancer

Chapter 21. A Letter to the Editor Declining a Book Review for Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapy (FACT)

Cancer in General

Chapter 22. What Are the Needs of Patients Diagnosed with Cancer?

Chapter 23. Scientific Method and the Search for the Cure for Cancer

Chapter 24. Prevention Is Better Than Cure! I Wouldn’t Be So Sure Mr. Brown

Chapter 25. Book Review for Spiked: The Secret War on Cancer
Devra Davis

Breast Cancer

Chapter 26. Breast Cancer: A Personal Prologue

Chapter 27. The Natural History of Breast Cancer

Chapter 28. Breast Cancer Awareness As a Prerequisite for Reducing Mortality in Resource Poor Parts of the World

Chapter 29. Surgery for Breast Cancer: Shifting Paradigms and Scientific Revolutions

Chapter 30. The Golden Ibex of Santorini: A Convergence of Cultures and Technologies

Chapter 31. Intra-Operative Partial Breast Irradiation after Breast Conserving Surgery: The History and Outcomes of The TARGIT Trial May 2014

Chapter 32. The Historical and Cultural Determinants in the Evolution of Adjuvant Endocrine Therapy: Two Hemispheres Separated by a Common Language

Chapter 33. A Tyranny of Cheerfulness: Pink Ribbons at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival 29th March 2012

Screening for Breast Cancer

Chapter 34. Breast Cancer Awareness Month: “Black October”

Chapter 35. The Illusions and Delusions of Screening for Cancer

Chapter 36. The Cancer “Tsar” Announces Independent Review of Screening for Breast Cancer

Chapter 37. The Marmot Report: Accepting the Poisoned Chalice

Chapter 38. To Screen or Not to Screen: Daily Mail

Chapter 39. Breaking News

Towards Synthesis

Chapter 40. “2084” A Play in Three Acts (With acknowledgments to George Orwell)

Chapter 41. My Thoughts on the Fifth Anniversary of 9/11

Chapter 42. Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): The Spectre of Eugenics or a “No Brainer”

Chapter 43. Book Review:The Archaeology of Race
Debbie Challis

Chapter 44. Back to the Future

Chapter 45. Valedictory Editorial for the International Journal of Surgery

Chapter 46. The Meaning of Life and Other Easy Questions

Chapter 47. Why me?

Acknowledgments

Index


Audience: Mostly for medical professionals but it should be accessible to lay people with an interest in philosophy and science.

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