Sawbones – the weird history of medical science

Medical science has a dark history. In the past, we’ve done some really bad things. We’ve used leeches to bleed people, we’ve used mercury to treat syphilis, and we’ve used people as guinea pigs to test new medicines.

Nowadays, we’re a lot more careful. But the history of medical science is an interesting subject to think about, and this podcast obsesses over the weird, foolish, bad and plain repulsive ways that have been used as treatments.

Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine is a nod to the ancient practice of surgery and amputation where limbs were literally sawed off the patient’s body. It is hosted by a married couple, Dr. Sydnee McElroy, who is a doctor, and her husband, journalist and comedian Justin McElroy.

The podcast has a great mix of humour and information. It is about things that are weird, gross and make you go “why would you do that?” and “what were they thinking?”

It has been around for a long time (we traced the first episode back to 2013) and is still going strong, with the research done well and the comedic factor on point. New episodes come out every week, and they are an eclectic mix of science, history and humour that makes for a delightful listen.

The one thing that really works in this podcast’s favour is how they simplify things. It could have easily turned into a deluge of medical jargon, but it doesn’t. Listeners can actively engage with the content without getting lost in the technicalities.

Although the initial episodes weren’t the best in quality, the podcast has come a long way since. The episodes deal with a wide variety of topics including diets, the way we have dealt with epidemics and mental health as well, with the latest one being about amnesia, and how media and pop culture have influenced our outlook about the condition.

The podcast is more or less family-friendly, and immensely entertaining. Listen

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