英文趣谈:Quackery不死之谜

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Arsenic是砒霜,没有人会拿来服用,除非是想杀人或自杀。Strychnine也是剧毒,通常用来制造杀虫剂。若有医生开这些毒物给病人,就不只malpractice(医疗失误)那麽简单,而是谋杀,若病人侥幸不死,也会是意图谋杀。

不过,不久以前,医学界经常都会开这些毒物作药用。Lydia Kang和Nate Pedersen合着的Quackery,就介绍了医疗史上很多今天来看简直是荒天下之大谬的药物和治疗方法。

Arsenic, “virtually undetectable”(无法察觉), was always a favorite with poisoners(下毒者). Doctors, however, prescribed it for skin problems … Another chemical, now hard to come by, was strychnine, which Hitler took to counteract(抗衡) flatulence(肠胃气胀). It was thought to increase energy and give a sensory boost – it also caused spasms(痉挛), hallucinations(幻觉) and convulsions(抽搐).

有说:”Medicine has never been an exact science.”(医学从来都不是完全准确的科学),医学不断发展,一定不断会有新发现,一些以往做法变得落伍,或被发现根本是错误,也是不足为奇,但很多当年的想法和做法,今天回看,惊吓度实在“爆表”。

Quack doctor的 quack cures

医生做手术没全程留在手术室掀起巨波,但若大家看看当年外科医生的做法和技术,看法就可能有些改变:

Tickets would be sold, for example, to watch amputations(截肢手术). The 19th-century surgeon Robert Liston hacked(砍、噼) away so speedily that he once accidentally sliced off a patient’s testicles(睾丸). On another occasion he cut off the fingers of the assistant holding the patient’s leg in place during a procedure. Both patient and assistant died soon afterwards of gangrene(坏疽), and a man in the audience dropped dead from shock.

In those days, the mortality rate(死亡率) following an amputation was at least 76 per cent, though Liston probably holds the record on that one, at 300 per cent.

Quack是鸭子的嘎嘎叫声,此字也解a person who dishonestly claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine,庸医、江湖医生,这类所谓医生也叫”quack doctor”,而他们用的“疗法”就叫”quack cures”。

人性易“上当”

书名的Quackery解dishonest practices and claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine,骗人的疗法。今时今日医学已十分先进,资讯也十分发达,但quackery仍然存在,信的亦大有其人,很多时后果相当严重,甚至致命,看看最近换血等案例就清楚。但先别批评上当的人愚昧,据Quackery书中的分析,这只是人性:

Let’s be honest. Being healthy isn’t enough for many of us. We want more – eternal youth(青春常注), perfect beauty, boundless energy(无限的精力), the virility(强壮) of Zeus. And herein the quack truly thrives.

Hindsight(事后聪明) makes it easy to laugh at many of the treatments in this book, but no doubt Dr Google has assisted you in search for a simple cure to a pesky(讨厌的、恼人的) problem. None of us are immune(免疫的、不受影响的) to wanting a quick fix. A hundred years ago, you might have been the person buying that strychnine tonic.

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