Stone Age man was pretty good at trepanning — boring holes into the skull, which supposedly cured headaches and epilepsy. Tudor England was full of doctors insisting that blood letting could get rid of ‘humors’ — bodily substances such as bile on which our health supposedly depended.
So modern medicine gets it right?
Not necessarily — in fact, there are many tests and treatments being used that don’t actually work.
Indeed, the problem is so enormous that in the U.S., dozens of major medical associations — including the American College of Cardiology — have launched a campaign to encourage doctors and patients not to use any of the 90 widely used procedures it has found to be useless.
This includes routine ECGs (electrocardiograms) to check the heart’s electrical activity in patients with no symptoms, or antibiotics for many kinds of ear infection.
So how do doctors know these treatments are a waste of time?