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From The CriticsReviewer: David Y. Rosenzweig, MD (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Description: This book narrates the impact of tuberculosis, the leading cause of morbidity and death in this country from 1800 to 1940, from the standpoint of those sick and otherwise affected, not from the view of the medical profession.
Purpose: The description of disease from the patient's view is unusual and rather unique in nonfiction, though fictional works, especially on tuberculosis, are well known (The Magic Mountain, La Boheme, La Traviata, etc.). Those with the disease were called invalids and faced a chronic, uncertain, and often fatal course. They coped by travel, the climatologic cure, first to tropical islands, later to the southwest and Colorado. They put meaning in their professional lives often by becoming missionaries or abolitionists. These avenues were open only to men of means, however. Women and the poor had no such options. By 1890 the cause and contagiousness of tuberculosis became known, the invalids became patients, and the stigma and disruption of lives by prolonged sanitarium confinement, where the sick and dying were concentrated, became the norm. The historical account is comprehensive, although somewhat repetitious. This saga is relevant to today's world. Not only has interest in tuberculosis reawakened, but the modern scourge of AIDS, a chronic illness profoundly affecting younger adults, shows important parallels.
Audience: Medical and social historians and tuberculosis health workers will benefit from this work. A more general audience should also include health care planners physicians primarily managing chronic diseases and those that are touched by the AIDS epidemic.
Features: The book is written as a series of individual narratives divided roughly by the eras covered as 1800-1850, the invalid experience; 1850-1890, health seekers in the West; 1890-1940, the patient and the sanitarium.
Assessment: This is an unusual and valuable account of the impact of an important disease on individuals and society with historical and modern applicability. It has a place in medical libraries and in libraries of those individuals noted above.