Friday, January 26, 2007

More Inspiring Medical Stories

William Harvey (1578-1657) and the foundations of physiology.

Back in the seventeenth century science began to looked towards measurement rather than magic. William Harvey having studied at both Cambridge and Italian Universities, took a post in London full of new ideas. One example he gave was that veins contained a series of ‘little doors’ – valves, in fact, which only opened one way. He went onto to start his own department of anatomy and was importantly given the position of Lumleian Lecturer to the College of Physicians.

As part of his duties he was to give public lectures. It must have been a very strange scene on the day he first made public his discovery in a public lecture. On the table lay the corpse of a criminal who had been executed the day before. Harvey, a little dark man proceeded to say things which staggered his listeners claiming that veins carry blood to the heart. He declared; blood is returned by veins to the right side of the heart, is then flooded into the lungs, cleansed by the air in the lungs and passed over to the left side of the heart, and then pumped into the arteries and around the body again. The same blood over and over again. In just one half-hour, he pointed out heart physiology. However, the audience stirred restlessly as Harvey was overthrowing the knowledge that arteries contained pure spirit which had been held by all mankind for two thousand years!

Angry at his reception about his theories which he had worked on for 14 years, Harvey ran out of the theatre. Back in his own laboratory, he continued with his research and another thirteen years after that lecture room day, he published his book with a long Latin title – Exercitation Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus. Its publication brought to a head the controversy between the old school of traditional thinkers and the new men of science. His book challenged the old ideas; as result William found his private practice dwindle as his patients shied away from his new talk about bodies.

There were things whispered against him, but despite this, he remained focused on his work. A few years after his death, men of science began to use a microscope and everything which Harvey had said was proved beyond all shadow of doubt.

“It were disgraceful, therefore, with this most spacious and admirable realm of nature before us, and where the reward ever exceeds the promise, did we take the reports of others on trust… Nature herself is to be addressed; the paths she shows us are to be boldly trodden; for thus and whilst we consult our proper senses shall we penetrate at length into the heart of her mystery.”
William Harvey


QUASAR9 said...

Hi Michelle, Curious thing,
in Cambridge today there is a conference with over 100 Cosmetic surgeons - they are hoping to benefit from the media publicity and put on a good show by allowing the public to see the surgery - I presume breast implants and botox will be the order of the day.

However we continue to ignore the obvious - "everyone can look beautiful ..." is their mantra
They ommit to add, as long as they can pay and are beautiful to start with.

Sure breast implants may help women with 'smaller' breasts gain more confidence - but whether that will make them beautiful begs the queation beautiful to who

Sure we've all seen the positive results of botox, but do we give the negative results of botox as much coverage in magazines.
Can these miracle workers really fix your face after a car crash or if it is deformed.
Can these miracle workers really fix your mouth whether after trauma, tooth decay or bad dentistry.

It seems the question is what they can charge most for - and what is least labourious (labour intensive) in & out pay £2-3,000 or £20-30,000 as you pass go.
But alas, no guarantees in this game - and unlike mechanics messing up your car, or builders messing up your roof, where insurance or money can buy you a new car or new roof - no one can buy you a new face, even if you can pay.

I tell you Dentistry is the prime example of where medicine and surgery is headed - We Want to treat those who can pay and need least attention - and I see no poor dentists, GPs or surgeons
Yet as we know those who need most dental work are those least able to pay - those with least access to decent caring dentistry - aimed at saving teeth - that is time consuming, and time is money.
No one who has bad teeth has bad teeth out of choice - they have bad teeth because of bad experiences at the dentist, and because they are unable to pay.
When a dentist tells you there is a six week waiting list, and that your teeth will have to come out - and if the same dentist tells you that if you can find £800 by Monday he may be able to save your teeth - that is where the problem is. Is there any difference between that and 'extortion'? - even if is lawful
And of course if you cannot raise the £800 you'll lose your teeth - which can only lead to more decay, misalignement and more wear and tear, leading to more erosion and dental loss.

But of course we now empower GPs
Yes empower GPs not to refer patients for treatment if they are smokers or obese
Well I guess that is ONE way of reducing waiting lists, but shouldn't we empower GPs to be able to refer patients for prompt attention, and on health or diet plans - and I don't just mean prescribing nicotine patches.
But alas that is what GPs are best at 'prescriptions' for this or that - if this don't work, here try that - some GPs must think they are hollywood stars giving autographs to their fans.

The whole mentality is wrong - we should have people trained and qualified as dentists doctors GPs surgeons consultants & specialists who really want to help other humans with their lot - and then we could achieve so much more for half the price, enabling us to employ even more.
But alas, who wants to look after humans, when you can earn more doing research - or testing on animals - with promises, which never seem to deliver anything much at all, rather they just create and perpetuate more problems galore.

And no, I do not exaggerate.
I just do not look at the medical profession thru rose tinted glass, but rather see the patients in the cold hard light or daylight.
Even those fool enough to be satisfied with the treatrment they've received are either dumb, or too proud to admit they've been had.

After all no one wants to tell someone they've just wasted £3000 or ten thousand on cosmetic surgery and looks no better, or even worse than before she went under the knife. And so it goes on.

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Dear Quasar9, Many thanks for your comments. Of course, once again much of what you say is very true and you highlight the fact that we currently seem to live in a very superficial world, where people forget at their peril, that beauty really does come from within. There are indeed many disturbing reports about the psychiatric side-effects of having body changing surgery. Your comment "After all no one wants to tell someone they've just wasted £3000 or ten thousand on cosmetic surgery and looks no better, or even worse than before she went under the knife." - very much reminded me of the story of the prince with no clothes.
That aside, there are many medical professions (I would say most) who have dedicated their lives to helping others and it is pleasure to watch them at their work. I also must add that I also refer many patients from the psychiatry service to NHS dentists - so they are out there!