Review – The Laws of Medicine

Posted February 19, 2018 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Laws of Medicine by Siddhartha MukherjeeThe Laws of Medicine, Siddhartha Mukherjee

The description of this book weirdly states that one of the laws Mukherjee proposes is that “Rumours are more important than tests.” That’s not what he suggests: instead, he’s talking about intuition and putting two and two together so that you use the right tests in the right circumstances, reducing the number of needless false positives. He gives an example of realising that one of his patients who didn’t fit the profile was actually a drug addict, leading to being able to use a test for AIDs to figure out what was wrong with him. But doing the test for AIDs makes no sense when there are no risk factors: what really made things come together in this case was a little bit of intuition.

I’m definitely a strong believer in the power of intuition as a diagnostic tool in general. You should always check when you can, of course! But from my vague medical knowledge as a doctor’s daughter and a reader, at seventeen years old, I once realised from something about the way his face looked that someone I knew a little had a serious heart problem. I described what I saw to my mother (the doctor!) and she agreed with my intuition. But when he went to the A&E, they didn’t admit him and didn’t operate. He had an aneurysm, and yes, he died. I wish I could give that moment of intuition and insight to the doctor who saw him in A&E; I’m pretty sure my mother will agree that that intuition, that ability to connect the faintest of dots, can turn an academically good doctor into a great one.

(Yes, Mum, I know. I should be a doctor, but I’m a little old to go through medical school now and maybe my intuition will serve me well in a microbiology lab, too.)

So that rule in particular struck a chord with me, and made reading this worth it just on its own. The other two laws Mukherjee mentions are interesting and important too, but that first one was what really got my interest.

Rating: 4/5

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