Why do doctors use treatments that do not work?
Jenny Doust and Chris Del Mar argue that doctors use treatments for many reasons-including their inability to stand idle and do nothing
- By: Jenny Doust, Chris Del Mar
One of the surprising things about James Lind's celebrated trial of citrus fruit for scurvy was not just that he ignored the evidence from his own trial but that in clinical practice he continued to advocate treatments that he himself had found ineffective, including those containing sulphuric acid.1 The history of medicine is replete with examples of treatments once common practice but now known not to work. Or worse, cause harm. Only because the French surgeon Paré ran out of boiling oil did he discover that not cauterising gun shot wounds with it created much less pain and suffering.2 Leeches and blood letting were used for thousands of years for almost everything. Attempts to show that they were ineffective were resisted with great passion by the medical profession.3 More recently, we have had treatment with insulin for schizophrenia and vitamin K for myocardial infarction.45 In case we are all feeling