Over a decade ago, when Siddhartha Mukherjee was a young, exhausted, and isolated medical resident, he discovered a book that would forever change the way he understood the medical profession. The book, The Youngest Science, forced Dr. Mukherjee to ask himself an urgent, fundamental question: Is medicine a “science”? Sciences must have laws—statements of truth based on repeated experiments that describe some universal attribute of nature. But does medicine have laws like other sciences?
Dr. Mukherjee has spent his career pondering this question—a question that would ultimately produce some of most serious thinking he would do around the tenets of his discipline—culminating in The Laws of Medicine. In this important treatise, he investigates the most perplexing and illuminating cases of his career that ultimately led him to identify the three key principles that govern medicine.
I’ve been meaning to read Mukherjee for a while now, especially considering how highly regarded Emperor of all Maladies is. That tome is 571 pages, though, so I thought The Laws of Medicine would be a better introduction.
And straight off I can tell you that I like his writing and his style. He neither dumbs down examples nor overexplains details. I want to read more… especially because this book is so short.
Clocking in at under 100 pages, it introduces the three laws of medicine Mukherjee devised. One is more aimed at research than clinical practice, and one is dead obvious to anyone who has studied medicine (even this lowly interpreter) but they’re still good points and worthy of the attention.
What hurts the most for me is that book could have been longer. The idea of laws could be better explored, corollaries proposed and debated, and exceptions that prove the rule gone over. As it stands the information is sufficient but not satisfying.
I listened to the audiobook and like the reader and the way it is produced. Having the author read the introduction is always a nice touch.
While I liked The Laws of Medicine it didn’t affect me as much as What Doctors Feel and other medical non-fiction does. But that’s okay – I’m viewing it as a tantalizing preview of Mukherjee’s longer, more in-depth work. Onward!