Every medical decision—whether to have chemotherapy, an X-ray, or surgery—is a risk, no matter which way you choose. Paul A. Offit argues that, from the first blood transfusions four hundred years ago to the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine, risk has been essential to the discovery of new treatments. More importantly, understanding the risks is crucial to whether, as a society or as individuals, we accept them.
Offit is a good storyteller, and he has some terrific stories to tell. He also draws important lessons ... I think that Offit also pulls out an even deeper and more provocative moral from this history ... Whenever an innovation threatens to cause harm, we should be exceedingly cautious before we allow it. Offit’s examples, and the history of medical advances, demonstrate that in its most extreme forms, the precautionary principle is self-defeating. Simply put, precautions kill ... We might have to start with speculation and guesswork, and learn in real time. We might have to roll the dice with our lives. As Offit shows, there’s heroism in that.
... a series of prismatic examples shared by Paul Offit ... Medical progress, he shows, is choppy and uneven, lurching forward in response to a new insight, then stuttering as unexpected limits are revealed ... Dr. Offit, a pediatrician, vaccine expert and prolific author, is exquisitely attuned to the burden shouldered by the earliest recipients of medical treatments and technologies ... his review of the history of vaccination and of its complexities evokes surprising empathy for the vaccine-hesitant
He acknowledges the existence of uncertainty and the risks required for the work of medical explorers of the modern age, along with the near inevitability of such risk. Offit illustrates his points with relevant examples from the development of COVID-19 vaccines ... A well-written and informative look at the reality of medical advancement, including poignant examples of its often-fatal repercussions.