The risks involved in introducing new drugs and devices are amongst the most discussed issues of modern medicine.
Presenting a new way of thinking about these issues, this volume considers risk and medical innovation from a social historical perspective, and studies specific cases of medical innovation, including X-rays, the pill and Thalidomide, in their respective contexts.
International cases are examined through the lens of a particular set of shared questions - highlighting differences, similarities, continuities and changes, and offering a historical sociology of risk. Particularly important is the re-conceptualization of dangers in terms of risk - a numerical and probabilistic approach allowing for seemingly objective and value-neutral decisions.
Read together, these papers add to our understanding of the current debate about risk and safety by providing a comparative background to the discussion, as well as a set of generally applicable criteria for analyzing and evaluating the contemporary issues surrounding medical innovation.
Table of Contents
Preface. Risk and Medical Innovation: A Historical Perspective. To Assess and to Improve: Practitioners? Approaches to Doubts Linked with Medical Innovations 1720-1920. Anaesthesia and the Evaluation of Surgical Risk in Mid-Nineteenth Century Britain. Redemption, Danger, and Risk: The History of Anti-Bacterial Chemotherapy and the Transformation of Tuberculin. As Safe as Milk or Sugar Water?: Perceptions of Risks and Benefits of the BCG Vaccine in the 1920s and 1930s in France and Germany. From Danger to Risk: The Perception and Regulation of X-Rays in Switzerland 1896-1970. The Population as Patient: Alice Stewart and the Controversy over Low-Level Radiation in the 1950s. To Treat or Not to Treat: Drug Research and the Changing Nature of Essential Hypertension. Hormones at Risk: Cancer and the Medical Uses of Industrially-Produced. Sex Steroids in Germany, 1930-1960. Assessment and Medical Authority in Operative Fracture Care in the 1960 and 1970s. Assessing the Risk and Safety of the Pill: Maternal Mortality and the Pill. Addressing Uncertainties: The Conceptualisation of Brain Death in Switzerland 1960-2000. Risk on Trial. The Interaction of Innovation and Risk in Cancer Clinical Trials. BioRisk: Interleukin-2 from Laboratory to Market in the United States and Germany. The Redemption of Thalidomide: Standardizing the Risk of Birth Defects
Thomas Schlich is Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine at the Department of Social Studies of Medicine at McGill University, Canada.
Ulrich Tröhler heads the Institute for the History of Medicine of the University of Freiburg, Germany.