Among the most important early works in the social history of medicine were histories of mental institutions. Here, in often great detail, historians wrote of seemingly barbaric procedures — such as insulin shock therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and lobotomy — that had less to do with helping patients than keeping order within the hospital. These revelations, and similar treatises on other aspects of medical history, threw into question the earlier “Whig” history of benevolent doctors who continually made progress in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
When some people learn that I wrote a scholarly book on celebrity illness, they are skeptical. After all, celebrities are associated with a certain superficiality and self-promotion. How much can we really learn about famous people who go public with as serious a topic as disease?
Quite a lot, it turns out. From Lou Gehrig to Betty Ford to, most recently, Alex Trebek, ill celebrities have taught us about dozens of illnesses and their treatments.
This title is half joking, half true.
It’s what someone told me when my dear 9 year-old nephew, Cooper Stock, was killed by a cab driver in New York City on January 10, 2014.
My family and I are waiting to hear if the driver will be charged with a crime. But as we have learned, it’s unlikely. You see, if you are not drunk, not on drugs and not speeding, all you have to tell the police when you run someone down in New York is “I did not see them.”
Cooper was killed when he and my brother-in-law…
Physician-historian, NYU professor, blogger, boxer enthusiast, Cleveland sports fanatic, author of The Good Doctor and When Illness Goes Public