Surgery: The Ultimate Placebo By Mrs Vera West


I picked up this book by Professor Ian Harris, Surgery, The Ultimate Placebo, (Newsouth, 2016), which is an eye-opener. Professor Harris is a leading Australian surgeon, but he has a sceptical scientific attitude, and submits surgical procedures, both those of the past, and many today, to critical evidence-based review. There are many placebo effects from a multitude of surgical procedures, which means no real physical benefit, only some psychological illusion. He seeks out peer reviewed studies actually testing the alleged effectiveness of surgical procedures.

What is of interest for a short review, is current surgical procedures under question. Included here are back fusion surgery, surgery for MS, hysterectomy, caesarean section, knee arthroscopy, appendicitis (“removing the appendix is not necessary on first presentation, and is associated with a worst long-term outcome” p. 153), coronary stenting, venous clot filters, shoulder surgery for impingement, floating kidney, tendon ruptures and even fracture surgery. Wounds like ruptured tendons sometimes heal on their own, and Harris has a highly conservative approach to surgical intervention, which is refreshing.

The book is an astonishing read because it is so clearly written and tightly argued. I recommend those with even a moderate degree of scepticism about modern medicine having a read, to sharpen further their critical mental scalpels.



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Thursday, 15 April 2021
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