AMERICAN HEALTH QUACKERY by James Harvey Young

AMERICAN HEALTH QUACKERY

Collected Essays

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Quackery is thriving in the high-tech 90's, according to Young (American Social History/Emory Univ.), author of Toadstool Millionaires (1961), which traced the history of quackery in America up to the Food and Drugs Act of 1906, and Medical Messiahs (1967), which brought the story forward to 1966. Here, Young has edited and updated some of his articles and lectures from the past 25 years, bracketing them with two new essays--one a personal piece on his own continuing fascination with the subject, the other a timely discussion of quackery and AIDS. Young looks at quackery's appeals within the context of America's intellectual history, noting how quackery has benefited from our belief in liberty and in the natural right to succeed. His concern about the persistence of medical fraud is evident in his lecture to health professionals reminding them of their duty to serve as the first line of defense against it, and in his speech before the FDA's policy board urging more vigorous enforcement of regulations. Numerous 19th-century advertisements for patent medicines are included here, inviting comparisons with current nutrition claims and alternative-therapy promotions. Young discusses cancer quackery at some length (especially the Laetrile episode) and observes that it has succeeded by playing on fear, promising painless treatment, claiming miraculous scientific breakthroughs, attributing all cancers to a single cause treatable by a single therapy, and accusing the medical community of conspiring to suppress new therapies. In recent years, AIDS has provided other opportunities to capitalize on fear, ignorance, and suspicion of government, and Young writes knowledgeably about the present crisis. Expert words on a fascinating subject. (Sixty-seven halftones.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-691-04782-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992