Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Medical Detectives

"I hope that Lord Grey and you are well - - no easy thing seeing that there are above 1,500 diseases to which Man is subjected." Letter to Lady Grey from Sidney Smith

This quotation appears at the beginning of Berton Roueche's book, The Medical Detectives. Imagine a time when only about 1,500 diseases were thought to plague mankind.
This book spans approximately forty years of American medical history, beginning in the late 1940s. Journalist Berton Roueche, known in medical circles as the master of medical detection, serves twenty-five mysteries, each of them a gripping read. Each case pits epidemiologists, medical doctors and local health authorities in races to discover causes of strange and baffling symptoms before lives - - or, more lives - - are lost.
A friend, familiar with my love of true-crime books, recommended this book. She knows it's not the gore and suffering of true-crime that draw me but the detection, the forensics, the solutions of puzzles that keep me paging through such books. Roueche's book also kept me turning the pages to see how bizarre symptoms can result from seemingly benign sources. Who would have guessed that tomato cultivation or oatmeal for breakfast would plunge people into baffling and life-threatening situations?
Each of these stories is true, though the author uses pseudonyms for the patients involved. The information is presented in accessible ways, highlighted by exacting, instructive writing. I understand that this books and Roueche's others are unofficial texts for medical students, and it easy to see why. One case history surprised me by offering helpful information on something relevant to my own situation.
If you enjoy the detection of true-crime but dislike the inevitable violence, try this. It's good for puzzle-lovers of all kinds.

(posted by Moon Rani)

1 comment:

Bridget said...

I'll have to look for this one, it sounds really interesting.