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Do-It-Yourself Medicine

Lester S. King, MD
JAMA. 1967;200(1):23-29. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120140081012.
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Home medical advisers represent an important category of the book trade. The present-day market seems insatiable and every year new books appear, each trying to provide laymen with helpful medical information. It would be quite impossible to trace the origin of what we may call do-it-yourself medicine, wherein a physician presents technical information to the public. When a line became more clearly drawn between the medical practitioner and the layman, and different grades of physicians separated off from the empirics and quacks, the texts directed specifically toward laymen became more and more numerous. The 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries witnessed increasing numbers of such publications.

In this article, which can only scratch the surface, I will consider a few 19th-century American publications that belong in the category of "do-it-yourself" medicine. Today, books of this type emphasize the professional activity of the physician. They provide the layman with background material to


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