Altman, Lawrence K. "The Doctor as Guinea Pig," New York Times Magazine, 6 April 1986,

 

Altman, Lawrence K. "The Doctor as Guinea Pig," New York Times Magazine, 6 April 1986,
pp. 32ff.

This physician-reporter is a staff person on the Times. He has here written an interesting account
of autoexperimenter, Victor Herbert, a physician who got folic anemia just to see what the
disorder was. That means avoiding all green and leafy vegetables. He did it and nearly killed
himself.

Autoexperimentation itself is a fairly common practice among physicians, many of whom feel
that they wouldn't do to others what they wouldn't do to themselves. Yet, there are few data on
how common this sort of work is. Certainly the previous cases written up in this file do not
exhaust the list. It is surprising that Altman ignores the tradition of such experimentation in
medicine and fails to contextualize the present case. It still makes interesting reading, but without
understanding the medical tradition involved, the story is "out of context" and makes this case
appear to be unique, something it is not.

This article is derived from a book described here as soon to be published by Random House.