Sir, – “Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?”, Dr Muiris Houston asks (Health + Family, April 2nd).

Every so often this challenging and welcome question arises.

Many of us remember Ivan Illich’s book Medical Nemesis; it was required reading at a pre-Google time when we met in groups to analyse and debate his views, always leading to healthy and heated arguments.

Dr Séamus O’Mahony’s book Can Medicine be Cured? reminds me of our now departed friend Prof James McCormick whose book The Doctor, Father Figure or Plumber? was published in 1979.

In 1994 James wrote an appreciation in The Irish Times remembering his friend and colleague Prof Petr Skrabanek (mentioned by Muiris Houston) whose views were taken seriously by thinking physicians throughout the world.

“Future generations will honour his learning, the elegance of his writing and the cogency of his criticism”, Prof McCormick wrote.

The questions raised and challenges posed by these people at different times are so important, now more than ever before.

These are issues not just for members of the medical profession but for all working with or concerned about the health of fellow human beings.

Today medicine is so often seen as the only solution to the pain of living. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.