American Health Quackery
Collected Essays of James Harvey Young
This study of American medical fraud finds quackery in the 1990s to be more extensive and insidious than in earlier and allegedly more naive eras. The author argues that the modern quack is not an outrageous hawker of magic remedies operating from the back of a carnival wagon, but a trained technician who knows how to use antiregulatory sentiment and ingenious promotional approaches to succeed in a "trade" that is both bizarre and deceitful. This collection of essays discusses recent health scams and reconsiders earlier ones. Liberally illustrated with examples of advertising for patent medicines and other "alternative therapies", the book links evolving quackery to changing currents in the scientific, cultural and governmental environment. Young describes varieties of quackery, such as frauds related to the teeth, nostrums aimed at children, and cure-all gadgets with such names as the Electreat Mechanical Heart. The case of Laetrile illustrates how an alleged vitamin for controlling cancer could be lobbied into a national mania, with many state legislatures passing laws giving the cyanide-containing drug special status.
AIDS is shown to be the most recent example of an illness that, tragically, has panicked some of its victims and members of the general public into putting their hopes in fake cures and preventives. Young discusses the complex question of vulnerability - why people fall victim to health fraud - and considers the difficulities confronting governmental regulators.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 1993 "This wonderful book contains collected essays of America's foremost historian of the patent medicine and health quackery industries.... These essays demonstrate Young's excellent scholarship as well as his marvelous sense of humor and his witty use of the language.... A fitting testimony to the excellent research and writing of the author."--"Choice" One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 1993