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‘The Art of Insulin Treatment:’ Diabetes, Insulin, and the 1920s.

‘The Art of Insulin Treatment:’ Diabetes, Insulin, and the 1920s.
Author Information (click to view)

Gardner KE,


Gardner KE, (click to view)

Gardner KE,

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The Journal of medical humanities 2017 11 16() doi 10.1007/s10912-017-9493-x
Abstract

Soon after the discovery of insulin in the early 1920s, the popular press celebrated the miraculous discovery. Although insulin had no curative effect on the chronic state of diabetes, it was frequently heralded as a "cure." This paper examines how the discovery of insulin intersected with the rise of diabetic technology and the transfer of medical technology to the home setting. By analyzing diabetic manuals written for patients and physicians, letters exchanged between patient and physician, medical journals, magazines and newspapers, I trace how patients learned about insulin and more significantly how patients adopted measurement technologies designed to allow better home administration of insulin. This included acquiring knowledge about nutritional content and scales, maintaining sterile glass syringes, sharpening needles, using chemistry to measure sugar in the urine, and recording various measurements into meaningful text for patient-physician dialogue. As diabetes was re-imagined as a chronic and controllable illness, patients and physicians alike grappled with the promises and limitations of new medical technologies. This historical perspective offers a lens for better understanding the process of implementing diabetic treatment plans that required home testing, measurement, and recording of medical data. Such processes centered the importance of patient-centered work and the value of diabetic technologies. Much of this discourse is outlined in diabetic manuals of the 1920s.

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