As for the question ‘can medicine be cured?’ posed in the title of his book, O’Mahoney confesses to being not optimistic. ‘We might admit to ourselves that we have over-valued our knowledge, and over-promised to our patients,’ he writes. ‘We might admit, too, that the war against death is unwinnable.’ Perhaps. Still, he has certainly performed a most useful service in calling this particular spade by its proper name.
What makes this book a delightful, if unsettling read, is not just O’Mahony’s scholarly and witty prose, but also his brutal honesty... here is a wise consultant towards the end of his career telling us what he wished he had known at the beginning of it... He skilfully weaves his story through a history of modern medicine, slaughtering a herd of sacred cows along the way. His frustration at his colleagues for herding up the worried well to create an industry profiting from the invented disease of “non coeliac gluten sensitivity” is particularly illuminating.