pp 1–4 | Cite as

Should we distrust medical interventions?

Jacob Stegenga: Medical nihilism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 226 pp, £27 HB
  • Donald GilliesEmail author
Book Review

Stegenga’s book is designed to defend a thesis which he calls: ‘medical nihilism’; but what exactly is ‘medical nihilism’? A seemingly clear definition of the term is given on p. 1: ‘Medical nihilism is the view that we should have little confidence in the effectiveness of medical interventions.’ This appears to be a strong thesis applying to all medical interventions. I will call it ‘S.’ Yet later in the book an open-ended list of exceptions is given. Thus, on p. 5 Stegenga says: ‘Surely my view does not warrant distrust in all of medicine? … for many infections, antibiotics; for some diabetics, insulin—there are a handful of truly amazing medical interventions.’

So for many infections, we should have high confidence in the effectiveness of antibiotics, and many of those suffering from diabetes should have high confidence in the effectiveness of insulin injections. The list of exceptions is extended on p. 184, where Stegenga says:

Medical nihilism is not the audacious view that there...


Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology StudiesUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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