Sunday, October 05, 2008

Five best books on the history of medicine

Stephanie J. Snow is a Research Associate at the Center for the History of Science, Technology & Medicine at the University of Manchester and the author of Operations Without Pain: The Practice and Science of Anaesthesia in Victorian Britain and the newly released Blessed Days of Anaesthesia: How Anaesthetics Changed the World.

She named a five best list of her favorite books on the history of medicine for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on her list:
The Social Transformation of American Medicine
by Paul Starr
Basic Books, 1982

"The dream of reason did not take power into account" -- so begins this Pulitzer Prize-winning portrait of the development of the American health-care system. Paul Starr, a sociology and public-affairs professor at Princeton University, tells the story in two parts. First, the rise of the medical profession through the 19th and early 20th centuries is shown to hinge on an unprecedented "cultural authority" derived from the legitimacy of science. It was this authority that enabled doctors to build a prosperous profession and to shape the medical system. In the second half of the book, Starr focuses on the ways in which for-profit corporations, such as insurance companies and hospitals, challenged the medical authority of doctors in the later decades of the 20th century, producing the health-care system -- much criticized yet much envied -- that the U.S. has today.
Read about Number One on Snow's list.

--Marshal Zeringue