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Limits to Medicine

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'The medical establishment has become a major threat to health.' This is the opening statement and basic contention of Ivan Illich's searing social critique. In Limits to Medicine, Ivan Illich has enlarged on his theme of disabling social services, schools, and transport, which have become, through over-industrialization, harmful to man. In this radical contribution to social thinking, Illich decimates the myth of the magic of the medical profession. Illich argues that through iatrogenic diseases (ones that result from medical treatment), doctors can find themselves doing as much harm as good, and that there is a limit to the amount of medicine that a civilization should believe it is good to give.

Published: Jan 1, 1976

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Introduction Ivan Illich
Preface Ivan Illich
Part I. Clinical Iatrogenesis
1. The Epidemics of Modern Medicine Ivan Illich
Part II. Social Iatrogenesis
2. The Medicalization of Life Ivan Illich
Part III. Cultural Iatrogenesis
3. The Killing of Pain Ivan Illich
4. The Invention and Elimination of Disease Ivan Illich
5. Death Against Death Ivan Illich
Part IV. The Politics of Health
6. Specific Counterproductivity Ivan Illich
7. Political Countermeasures Ivan Illich
8. The Recovery of Health Ivan Illich


Ivan Illich is a famous and savage critic of industrial society. I am in total agreement with many of [his] wider arguments.
Times Education Supplement