American life expectancy has increased by more than 30 years in the past century. The limitations of medical practice dissolve with the passing years, as new knowledge and equipment enable doctors to do what was once impossible. As scientists and physicians continue to push the expanded boundaries of medical science, society must weigh the miraculous possibilities against psychological and social burdens, and make choices that once were left to fate. How far are we willing to go to prolong life? Who will benefit from new medical practices -- and at what cost?
From the days of house-calls, when x-rays were a daring innovation, to the era of high-tech hospitals and specialist physicians, "Matters of Life and Death" tracks the passion and determination of medical work in the twentieth century. Dramatic experiments, the "politics" of science, and races against the clock form a backdrop to the discovery of new treatments, antibiotics, and advances in surgery and medical technology that have lengthened our lives and caused us to rethink our assumptions about life and death.
Pan American Exhibition, 1901
Medical science in the age of McKinley
How do we fight disease?
Prevention versus cure
Living with disease
A drug that changes history
Another medical barrier collapses
New solutions, new dilemmas
Growing knowledge of an old enemy
Using twentieth-century knowledge