Medicine and Culture Revised Edition

Lynn Payer; With a New Foreword by the Author

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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This classic comparative study of medicine and national culture shows that while doctors regard themselves as servants of science, they are often prisoners of custom. The United States, England, Germany, and France have equivalent life expectancy rates, yet medical treatment differs enormously from country to country.

Medicine and Culture explores important and telling questions in this regard. For example, what determines the difference between how French doctors and American doctors interact with AIDS patients? Why is low blood pressure considered a sign of health in the U.S. and a sign of sickness in Germany? Why are hysterectomies, performed infrequently in France, among the most common operations in the United States? And why do American doctors perform significantly more cardiac bypass operations per capita than their English colleagues?

A foreword by the author examines today's trend toward evidence-based medicine while also addressing the substantial changes in medical culture since 1988, including the proliferation of alternative medicine and the changing face of medicine throughout Europe since the fall of Communism.


Praise for Medicine and Culture

"We have been so conditioned to believe that medical science is objective and unbiased that we rarely question decisions made by our doctors. Lynn Payer shows that medical decisions may not be as clear-cut as we think. Using case examples from France, Germany, England, and the U.S., she shows that the same condition may result in different diagnoses, and that even the same diagnosis may be treated in very different ways. These differences are not due to ill-trained doctors or backward practices, but rather to differing cultural approaches to health and illness. Realizing that cultural bias does influence medical judgment makes it easier to question your doctor's decisions without questioning his motives. It also makes you realize that there are viable medical options available which are common practice in other countries and are not considered part of the lunatic fringe."—Woman Source Catalog & Review: Tools for Connecting the Community for Women

"An engrossing, revealing, alarming, and amusing report on cultural bias in doctoring."—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Lynn Payer; With a New Foreword by the Author

  • Lynn Payer, a former editor for the New York Times Good Health magazine, writes extensively about medical issues for doctors as well as for the general public. She lives in New York City.