A Cure That Kills.
Imagine the following scene. In early-twentieth-century America, a middle-aged man leaving the theater clutches his chest, then he drops to the ground. The cry goes out, "Is there a doctor in the house?" Up walks a physician. He proceeds to cut open the man's chest and squeeze the heart into activity again. All cheer as the victim, momentarily revived, is rushed to the hospital. He dies a few days later. Scenes such as this were played out repeatedly as Good Samaritan physicians applied what was then state-of-the-art medicine. A few patients' lives were saved by this routine; it was better than no treatment at all, but the cure was nearly as deadly as the illness.
In 1960 Dr. W. B. Kouwenhoven, a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, started advertising a new technique for cardiac resuscitation. Calling it the hand-pump, or closed-chest, massage, he...
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