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Subject: Health
SUBJECT:
Health
Although scientific medicine has been delivering more and more, in recent decades it has been trusted less and less. This paradox reflects worrying tales of medical misfortune as well as a decreasing trust in authority in general. Symbols of this paradox in the Science Museum collections include relics from both the development of penicillin, the original 'wonder-drug', and from the MMR vaccine, the subject of contemporary controversy. Antibiotics, vaccines and pills to treat mental torment were once all treated as wonder drugs. Today, despite their undoubted benefits, we often hear of side-effects, addiction and bacterial resistance. Patients worry that addiction, for instance, can result from drugs prescribed by doctors, so increasingly they select their own treatments. Ironically, while there has been an increase in self-treatment, there has also been an increase in cosmetic surgery, where healthy individuals have chosen to seek medical help to alter their appearance, not cure their ills.
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Wonder drugs astonished people in the 1940s and 1950s. New antibiotics, vaccines and sedatives seemed to promise an end to illness as we had known it. Today people are much less trusting of authority and doctors. Illness is still much less threatening than sixty years ago. But side-effects, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and addiction have tested belief in medicines.  > more
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Women's health problems used to be treated by other women. As professional medicine became more powerful, male doctors took command. They changed the way women's health was portrayed and how their bodies were treated.  > more
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Is life essentially spiritual and unknowable, or is it the result of chemical processes? This question, still urgent and debated, raged through the twentieth century and underpinned both great science and great literature. Interpretations of DNA and biotechnology are both affected by your answer.  > more
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The loss of a limb is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. Artificial limbs are, at best, an imperfect solution. Find out how three people have managed with them.  > more
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The human sciences have come to understand people either as a ‘Puzzle Solvers’, ‘Tool Users’ or ‘Story Tellers’. Sometimes in conflict, sometimes in harmony, these three models continue to inform contemporary debates about what we are – and what we can become.  > more
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Whether it is the increasing problem of people being overweight in the West, the ways that people adorn their bodies, or even the methods by which the body can be modified, we are obsessed by body issues. Though body image seems glamorous, what is seen as normal and our ability to attain this are affected by the practicality of technology and economics.  > more
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Defining and treating addiction is a modern problem. In the last century arguments have raged over whether addiction to alcohol, tobacco or drugs is a physical or mental condition and whether different substances create different classes of addicts.  > more
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The vast majority of minor illnesses are not treated by doctors, but by lay people in their own homes. This is perhaps fortunate, as without our DIY healthcare the NHS might not cope. Diagnosis, prevention and cure have preoccupied us for centuries, but our reasons for not going to the doctor have varied from differences in belief to disillusionment with services.  > more
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Across the world, many different medical traditions thrive, each one changing and developing in response to the shifting culture in which it is practiced. This topic explores some of the most widely used medical traditions: Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and African medical traditions, and looks at their interactions with biomedicine and other medical traditions.  > more
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Mesothelioma, a once-rare and aggressive cancer, was studied by a research team led by South-African-born pathologist Chris Wagner. His work, along side that of Dr Elmes and Dr Wade, helped change the perception of asbestos from ‘magic mineral’ to killer dust.  > more
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