Skip to main content

John Bradshaw (1918–1989): putting doctors on trial


John S. Bradshaw (1918–1989) qualified as a doctor, but spent most of his professional life as a writer and journalist. His best-known work, Doctors on Trial (1978), a polemical book which attacked modern medicine, concluded that “western doctors today are certainly more productive, directly or indirectly, of ill-health, in every sense, than of health”. This book was partly inspired by the writings of Ivan Illich, the Austrian priest and social philosopher. This article examines Bradshaw’s life and the influence of Illich’s thinking on Doctors on Trial.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Bradshaw JS (1976) Personal View. BMJ 6012(1):767

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bradshaw JS (obituary) (1989) BMJ 298:1095

  3. Illich I (2003) Obituary. J Epidemiol Comm Health 57:923–924

  4. Illich I (1974) Medical nemesis. Calder and Boyars, London

    Google Scholar 

  5. Paton A (1974) Medical nemesis—three views. BMJ 5944(4):573–577

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. (1974) Medical nemesis. BMJ 5944(4):548–549

  7. Bradshaw JS (1975) Medical nemesis. BMJ 5949(1):94

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bradshaw JS (1978) Doctors on trial. Wildwood House, London

    Google Scholar 

  9. Browne S (1979) The future and its unacceptable face. BMJ 6157(1):186–187

    Google Scholar 

  10. Marshall J (1979) Medical fictions. The tablet 19th May. 12

  11. Smith T (1979) Defence and prosecution. BMJ 6158(1):255–256

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bradshaw JS (1979) The End of an age of optimism. BMJ 6163(1):614

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Black D (1979) From lecture to reference. BMJ 6163(1):942–943

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Dean G (2003) The turnstone: a doctor’s story. Liverpool University Press, Liverpool

    Google Scholar 

  15. Accessed 26 Nov 2013

  16. Gawande A (2002) Complications: a surgeon’s notes on an imperfect science. Metropolitan Books, New York

    Google Scholar 

  17. Sullivan R, Peppercorn J, Sikora K et al (2011) Delivering affordable cancer care in high-income countries. Lancet Oncol 12(10):933–980

Download references


I am grateful to Toby Bradshaw and Dr. Richard Smith for their assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. O’Mahony.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

O’Mahony, S. John Bradshaw (1918–1989): putting doctors on trial. Ir J Med Sci 184, 559–563 (2015).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • John Bradshaw
  • Ivan Illich
  • Doctors on trial