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Archie Cochrane: Back to the front
  1. Jaime Latour-Pérez

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    Edited by F X Bosch, R Molas. Barcelona: published privately, 2003.

    In 1978 one of the authors of this book (the Catalan epidemiologist Xavier Bosch) and Archie Cochrane (probably one of the most influential personalities in the field of the health care) carried out a journey to the places that the latter knew during the Spanish civil war, as a member of the International Brigades that went to help the Spanish legitimate republican government.

    This journey constitutes the starting point of this singular book, carefully edited and illustrated (including some of the legendary photographs of R Capa on the Spanish civil war). To a large extent, the book consists of a series of brief comments (not always laudatory) on the biography of A Cochrane, carried out by epidemiologists as Richard Doll, Peter Elwood, and Lester Breslow, among others. An important part of the text is formed by fragments of well known historians and writers as Gabriel Jackson, Hugh Thomas, and George Orwell, which help to understand the socio-political frame of the Spanish civil war and the second world war, during which he was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp (where he could carry out a nutritional clinical trial!). Especially interesting are the comments that connect these first professional experiences with the theoretical thesis that Archie Cochrane would defend later on. We mention, for example the following lines of his autobiography about his clinical practice in the concentration camps, in which it is not difficult to recognise the desire of an evidence based clinical practice:

    I remember at that time reading one of those pamphlets considered suitable for POW medical officers about clinical freedom and democracy. I found it impossible to understand. I had considerable freedom of clinical choice of therapy; my trouble was that I did not know which to use and when. I would gladly have sacrificed my freedom for a little knowledge.

    The book is conceived as homage to A Cochrane, and does not intend to be either his complete biography, or a critical introduction to his thinking. The book, however, will be read with pleasure by the people that have been felt influenced by the ideas of A Cochrane. On the other hand, young epidemiologists will find in this book, impregnated with social commitment and with ethical values, a superb complement for their career education.

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