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World J Surg. 2003 Jun;27(6):748-52. Epub 2003 May 13.

Nihilism: a benign denial.

Author information

1
Centers for Surgical Anatomy & Technique, Emory University School of Medicine, 1462 Clifton Road NE, Suite 303, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA. cpainte@emory.edu

Abstract

Nihilism is the belief that all possible knowledge on a given topic has been amassed and codified. Ranging from benign denial to deliberate attempts at excommunication, nihilism is often encountered in the history of medicine. Eustachius, Columbus, and Sylvius strongly criticized Vesalius and defended the authority of Galen. Riolan fervently rejected Harvey's monumental work on the circulation of blood. Gross stated that no honest and sensible surgeon would ever sanction thyroidectomy. Sandstrom's discovery of the parathyroids was met with silence. Transplantation of parathyroids by Mandl was not appreciated when announced. Aristotle's dictum that the heart cannot withstand serious injury led to Paget's statement that cardiac surgery had reached the limits set by nature, which no new techniques could overcome. The first Billroth I operation was welcomed as, "Hopefully, also the last." Pancreatic surgery was opposed because the organ was of no clinical interest and was impossible for surgeons to reach. Pancreatic transplantation was rejected for many years, despite good results. When Blundell used blood transfusion for postpartum hemorrhage, critics averred that his next exploit would be radical removal of the spleen. Bassini stated that it could be risky to publish more about radical treatment of inguinal hernias. Carcinomas of the lower sigmoid and upper rectum were deemed untreatable because of their inaccessibility. Colostomy during pediatric surgery was rejected many times. Although it is difficult for the human mind to move from a familiar point of view, this propensity should not infect science, thereby impeding advancement.

PMID:
12732992
DOI:
10.1007/s00268-003-6875-1
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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