The Laws of Medicine: Field Notes from an Uncertain Science (TED Books)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Essential, required reading for doctors and patients alike: A Pulitzer Prize-winning author and one of the world’s premiere cancer researchers reveals an urgent philosophy on the little-known principles that govern medicine—and how understanding these principles can empower us all.
Over a decade ago, when Siddhartha Mukherjee was a young, exhausted, and isolated medical resident, he discovered a book that would forever change the way he understood the medical profession. The book, The Youngest Science, forced Dr. Mukherjee to ask himself an urgent, fundamental question: Is medicine a “science”? Sciences must have laws—statements of truth based on repeated experiments that describe some universal attribute of nature. But does medicine have laws like other sciences?
Dr. Mukherjee has spent his career pondering this question—a question that would ultimately produce some of most serious thinking he would do around the tenets of his discipline—culminating in The Laws of Medicine. In this important treatise, he investigates the most perplexing and illuminating cases of his career that ultimately led him to identify the three key principles that govern medicine.
Brimming with fascinating historical details and modern medical wonders, this important book is a fascinating glimpse into the struggles and Eureka! moments that people outside of the medical profession rarely see. Written with Dr. Mukherjee’s signature eloquence and passionate prose, The Laws of Medicine is a critical read, not just for those in the medical profession, but for everyone who is moved to better understand how their health and well-being is being treated. Ultimately, this book lays the groundwork for a new way of understanding medicine, now and into the future.
these addictions with specific molecules might force cancer cells to die. The battle-ax chemical poisons of cellular growth would become obsolete at last. The most spectacular example of one such drug, Gleevec, for a variant of leukemia, had galvanized the entire field. I still recall the first patient whom I treated with Gleevec, a fifty-six-year-old man whose bone marrow had been so eaten by leukemia that he had virtually no platelets left and would bleed profusely from every biopsy that we
laws of medicine involve limits and constraints on human knowledge is instructive. Lewis Thomas would not have predicted this stickiness of uncertainties and constraints; the future of medicine that Thomas had imagined was quite different. “The mechanization of scientific medicine is here to stay,” he wrote optimistically in The Youngest Science. Thomas presaged a time when all- knowing, high-precision instruments would measure and map all the functions of the human body, leaving little
Medical School, Thomas began his internship at Boston City Hospital. It was a grueling initiation. “Rewarding might be the wrong word for it, for the salary was no money at all,” Thomas wrote. “A bedroom, board, and the laundering of one’s white uniform were provided by the hospital; the hours of work were all day, every day. . . . There was little need for pocket money because there was no time to spend pocket money. In any case, the interns had one sure source of spare cash: they were the
heart muscles were destroyed, bit by bit, by the mysterious deposition of iron, like the Tin Man of Oz—even more innovative procedures exist, such as the transplantation of a whole foreign heart into the body, followed by a salvo of immunosuppressive medicines to ensure that the transplanted graft remains functional and intact in the body afterward. But the more I read The Youngest Science that year, the more I returned to a fundamental question: Is medicine a science? If, by science, we are
with a man whom I had admitted months ago with a severe skin infection related to a heroin needle inserted incorrectly into a vein. The conversation could not have lasted for more than a few minutes. It may have involved something as innocuous as change for a twenty-dollar bill, or directions to the nearest ATM. But on my way home on the train, the image kept haunting me: the Beacon Hill scion chatting with the Mission Hill addict. There was a dissonant familiarity in their body language that I