“An absolutely fascinating non-fiction look at medical quackery in the 20's and 30's in the U.S. Thoroughly researched, and written in a highly readable and entertaining style this is a head-shakingly interesting look at an issue that continues to this day.
The book uses two men to wrap the stories in the book around. Two men who personified the two sides of the quackery coin:
"Dr" John R. Brinkley, a smooth-talking operator who convinced thousands of male - and even some female! - customers to pay him to have goat-glands implanted into their bodies to restore their virility and health. Brinkley made millions through a vast array of schemes that convinced gullible Americans to give him money and let him do things to them that may seem utterly ludicrous to sensible people. But then, we still have medical scams fooling presumably sensible people today.
The other character in the story is Morris Fishbein. Fishbein was the editor of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and a "quackbuster", who made it his personal mission - a mission that lasted almost three decades - to bring Brinkley down by exposing him as the fraud and charlatan he was.
The book is chock-full of unexpected and interesting factoids and well known people who in one way or another factor into the main story of Fishbein vs. Brinkley and the many entertaining aspects of that.
- The Canadian discovery of insulin comes up as a legitimate medical advance in contrast to Brinkley's entirely fictional "breakthrough" procedures
- Another of the quacks performing bogus "virility-replacing" procedures was able to claim as a patient Dr. Sigmund Freud [yes, THAT Freud!]
In the early days of the battle between Brinkley and Fishbein, the AMA successfully revoked Brinkley's medical license in the state of Kansas where he practiced. Did Brinkley crawl away to lick his wounds? Oh, no! He ran for governor, and the only thing that kept him from winning, was a last minute change in the election rules that required voters to correctly write his full name for the vote to count.
For those of us in the communications industry, the ubitquitous Edward Bernays makes an appearance in the story, as do the Nazis, June Carter Cash and the rest of the Cash Family Singers. There's even a brief connection to the movie Gone with the Wind.
While the book is mainly about the foolishness of people wishing for things that don't exist and being willing to be conned into believing in scam artists and risking not only their hard earned dollars, but their very lives, it is also about the legal, medical and social environment of the United States during the 20's and 30's which allowed these situations to exist.
I really enjoyed this book. If more non-fiction was written in such and engaging and interesting way more people would read it. This is a terrific combination of education and just a darned good read! Highly recommended!”