Whiplash, an injury so common in the U.S. that its annual cost is estimated to reach as high as $18 billion, was first medically attested in 1953. Anyone who assumes it merely went undiagnosed beforehand should read Whiplash and Other Useful Illnesses (McGill-Queen’s) by Toronto psychiatrist Andrew Malleson. With cynical wit —the book is dedicated “to all the chimpanzees, monkeys and other animals that died miserable deaths in vain attempts to prove that whiplashed people have been truly injured”—the author traces the history of an epidemic. What was once neck strain, a condition that healed in weeks, now cripples millions. Many other modern maladies (fibromyalgia comes in for some biting commentary), Malleson claims, are also simply fodder for a medico-legal industry that needs diseases like the lumber trade needs trees.
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