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An abbreviated version of this review has been published in the BMJ*.
The closest I ever came to a religious experience was listening to Ivan Illich. A charismatic and passionate man surrounded by the fossils of the academic hierarchy in Edinburgh, he argued that “the major threat to health in the world is modern medicine.” This was 1974. He convinced me, not least because I felt that what I saw on the wards of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was more for the benefit of doctors than patients. I dropped out of medical school that day. Three days later I dropped back in again, unsure what else to do. Now I’m the editor of the BMJ, which is ironic. Having deserted medicine, I’ve become a pillar of the British medical establishment (yes I am, like it or not).
I devoured both Medical Nemesis and Limits to Medicine,† and now …