The Laws of Medicine follows Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, Dr Mukherjee as he investigates some of the most perplexing and illuminating cases of his career - the cases that ultimately led him to identify the three key principles that govern medicine. As a young medical student, Mukherjee discovered The Youngest Science, a book that changed the way he understood the medical profession and forced him to ask himself an urgent, fundamental question:
Is medicine a 'science'?
Science must have laws - statements of truth based on repeated experiments that describe some universal attribute of nature. Dr Mukherjee has spent his career pondering whether the 'youngest science' has laws like the other sciences, culminating in this treatise The Laws of Medicine.
Law 1: Rumours are more important than tests.
Law 2: The piece of data that does not fit your model is the most crucial piece of data that you own.
Law 3: For every perfect medical experiment, there is a perfect human bias.
Brimming with fascinating historical details and modern medical wonders, this book is a glimpse into the struggles and Eureka! moments rarely seen by those outside the profession.
Mukherjee, an oncologist and Pulitzer Prize winner for The Emperor of All Maladies, brilliantly observes the practice of medicine from a wide angle, offering his perspective on three crucial elements: intuition, statistical outliers, and human bias. He recounts his medical education, both formally and informally, as he delves into the practical lessons he has learned. For example, now that it's possible to cheaply collect reams of genetic data on every patient, understanding those patients who lie outside the parameters of "normalcy" becomes essential. Previously, the one patient responding to an otherwise failed drug was dismissed as an "exceptional responder" and the drug shelved. But now that patient's genes can be sequenced to see mutations for possible drug targeting. Mukherjee advises viewing medicines and surgical procedures "not as therapeutic interventions but as investigational probes." Still, as successes multiply, so do biases. One hospital's new doctors were stunned by a drug's anecdotally high response rate, only to discover that the real rate was only 15%. Hospital staff had given new doctors good responders, afraid they couldn't handle poor ones. The lesson is repeated throughout: bias is fought with solid data and the instincts that grow with experience. Mukherjee has established himself as new medicine's philosopher/poet and has produced a brief, accessible book for patients and practitioners alike.