It often seems, to doctors at least, as if trust in medicine is inversely proportional to its ability to save lives. When doctors could do little more than hold their patients’ hands as they died, often hastening their deaths with their absurd prescriptions, they enjoyed absolute trust. As soon as they could actually save lives, however, mistrust set in and writs began to fly. It is really most aggravating (for doctors).
An editorial in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine draws attention to the current widespread mistrust of antibiotics. The authors are right to do so: I have quite often heard it urged against the benefits of modern medicine that it has produced bacterial resistance to antibiotics, as if this would be of any consequence if there were no antibiotics in the first place. No one would refuse an anaesthetic for an abdominal operation because there had been thousands of anaesthetic accidents since ether was first introduced.
That antibiotics had side-effects was recognized early in their career: and where side-effects come, can lawsuits be far behind? The first thoughts of those whose lives have been saved by them, albeit at the cost of damage either temporary or permanent, turn to compensation.