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"Outsider Status" of Surgeons "Permitted Greater Risks and Leaps of Faith"



(p. A19) . . . as Arnold van de Laar reminds us in "Under the Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations," a collection of hypervivid anecdotes and oddities, it was only recently that surgeons were considered the equals of what we would now call internists--doctors who diagnose, prescribe medicine and prognosticate.


. . .


. . . , it has been both the bane and the secret glory of surgery as a vocation that it was relegated for so long to the margins of "decent" intellectual or professional life. Its dodgy, outsider status perhaps permitted greater risks and leaps of faith than were available to nonsurgical physicians, who still found themselves making inchworm progress from the dictates of Hippocrates and Galen. Surgeons worked fast to beat pain and gangrene (so fast that in one case, Scottish surgeon Robert Liston cut off a man's testicles in a rush to amputate his leg). They used whatever materials seemed to make sense--in some cases gold thread, costly but long-lasting; in other cases branding irons.



For the full review, see:

Laura Kolbe. "The Kindest Cuts." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 15, 2018): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Nov. 14, 2018, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; 'Under the Knife' Review: The Kindest Cuts.")


The book under review, is:

van de Laar, Arnold. Under the Knife: A History of Surgery in 28 Remarkable Operations. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2018.






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