Wednesday, April 16, 2008

John R. Brinkley and the age of flimflam

There’s a new book out about John R. Brinkley. Harriet Hall has posted a review over at Science Based Medicine. In my post about Brinkley over a year ago I noted that we are much more tolerant of quackery now than in Brinkley’s day. In reading Harriet’s review (I haven’t read the book) I have to wonder if the author missed that point. Brinkley enjoyed success and wealth for a time, but much of this was gained in Mexico. He was virtually chased out of the U.S., losing not only his medical license but also his radio broadcasting license. When he constructed the first border blaster under a license from Mexico the U.S. tried once again to shut down his infomercials with passage of a law restricting the use of studio-to-transmitter links across international borders, known to this day as the Brinkley Act. While Brinkley’s surgical procedures would not be tolerated today his infomercials would thrive.

According to the review JAMA, decades ago, ran a regular quack busting feature. You won’t see that today in mainstream medical journals, which often promote quackery.

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