The Biggest Myth in Medicine

by Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc

The biggest myth in medicine today is that life expectation is soaring. Young medical journalists (who really should know better) frequently perpetuate the myth that we are all living much longer than our ancestors. This is nonsense – but it is a myth which is very popular with the drug industry and the medical establishment.

The reality is that people were living into their 80s and 90s a century or two ago. (Just look in a history book and you will find plenty of supporting evidence.)

There are two reasons for the mistake.

First, infant mortality was much higher in the 19th century and at the start of the 20th century. Many babies died before their first birthday. If, out of ten people who are born, five live to be 100 and five don’t reach their first birthday then the average life span will be 50 years. Today, very few babies die and so most people reach mature adulthood – this pushes up the average life expectation.

Second, there are more people alive today and so there are bound to be more 80 and 90-year-olds around. This sounds ridiculously simple but it is a truth which is often forgotten.

The sad fact is that medicine has made very little progress in the last century. Doctors and drug companies do not like people to know that.

I first explained this misconception about 40 years ago but I have, sadly, failed to push the truth into the brains of journalists and politicians. (Who are, to be fair, constantly being fed the more commercially advantageous theory that we are all living longer.)

Readers who want to know more about potent medical myths may like to read my books How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You and Doctors Kill More People Than Cancer. Both books are available as ebooks on Amazon.

Copyright Vernon Coleman May 2016