The book “The Medical Messiahs,” explores how the government and reformers have been trying to suppress the proliferation of patent medicines with the help of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 and the succeeding laws, and how the perpetrators have tried to take advantage of the loopholes in the law. Young (1966) relates the various ways in which the perpetrators have tried to comply with the laws in the effort continue their businesses and how they have fought, a number of time successfully, when lawsuits were filed against them.
The book was written for the ordinary person because it avoids as much as possible scientific and legal terms that are not usually known to lay persons. It is readable to a person who does not have a scientific background as long as that person is knowledgeable about basic scientific information such as nutrition and health. As mentioned in the preface, Young (1966) wrote the book as a sequel to “The Toadstool Millionaires,” which had focused on patent medicines until the establishment of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906.
Despite the various attempts by the government and reformers to fight against the proliferation of nostrums that are thought to be harmful and/or ineffective in curing a person, Young (1966) notes that instead of being destroyed, the business of medical quackery had even flourished and its perpetrators are making millions of dollars. The author wrote the book in an attempt to make ordinary people aware of the presence of health quackery and the efforts by reformers and the government to protect them.
He also wrote the book to recognize the efforts of the government and reformers and provide some feedback on the results of their activities in spite of the unhappy news that medical quackery is a booming industry. Book Report on The Medical Messiahs 2 The main theme of the book is to present a history of developments in the business of medical quackery and the efforts being made by the government and reformers, such as the enacting of laws, the filing of lawsuits against some perpetrators, and the improvements in hospital regulations, licensing laws, and medical education (Young, 1966).
Another theme is to inform the ordinary person in the effort to prevent him or her from falling prey to misleading medical claims. Scientists at that time when the book was published would have praised it in its efforts to inform people about how some unscrupulous persons are trying to manipulate and misuse science to further their goals of increasing their profits. Of course, science is still relatively young and many questions about health and medicine have not been satisfactorily answered and it is usually these areas that perpetrators of quackery take advantage of.
Society as a whole would have been divided as to the merits of this book in view of the number of people who believe that medicine and science cannot be relied on. Those in the religious community would also have criticized the author’s tendency to side with science and to disregard the possibility of other ways of curing diseases. The book should be praised for its use of simple terms that the lay person would be able to comprehend. It also provides narratives of the history of how a certain business enterprise in quackery evolved.
It is also praiseworthy that the author covers a broad range of areas such as mail-order treatments for impotence, liniments for treating tuberculosis, obesity cures, and nutritional products. The only criticism against this book is that it could have been written in a more interesting manner because a number of times it seems to be a boring read. If it is to grab the attention of the ordinary a person, it should have been written in a more interesting way. Reference List Young, James H. (1966). The medical messiahs: A social history of health quackery in twentieth century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
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