Being called a Quack is one of the worst things you can say about a physician, and although I’ve never been called one (that I know of!), I’ve certainly followed some of the scientific fashions-of-the-day and treated patients with medications we subsequently determined were unhelpful if not downright dangerous.

But that is child’s play compared to a whole host of nostrums, treatments, and theories that have been perpetrated over the years on unwitting patients, and in the new book

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything

you will read the fascinating history of mercury, arsenic, cocaine, heroin, and rectal smoke…to name but a few treatments that have come and gone over the years, or if they remain, were misused and misunderstood.

As always, this type of history provides a great perspective on the present.  What is fashion and what is science?  It can be hard to tell, but we have to remain vigilant and skeptical.  As Don Coffey, my great professor said, “The mind is like a parachute….it only works when it’s open.”