Vote to choose greatest medical breakthrough


LONDON (Reuters), Jan 5 - Is it sanitation or vaccines? Anesthesia or the contraceptive pill?

Doctors and scientists, as well as the public, are being invited to choose the greatest medical breakthrough of the last 166 years in an online poll.

Voting in the survey, organized by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), starts on Friday.

The journal has compiled a shortlist of 15 medical milestones, all made since the BMJ was first published in 1840. The list was selected from over 100 nominations from the journal's readers.

It includes achievements that have transformed the lives of millions of people around the world, including the discovery of antibiotics and the development of medical imaging.

Each of the breakthroughs are being championed by a representative from the medical community. They include Carl Djerassi, creator of the contraceptive pill, and Stephanie Snow, a descendant of John Snow, who discovered anesthesia in the 1800s.

Each expert will set out the case for their chosen development on the journal's Web site, where readers can cast their vote.

"Any of these milestones would make a deserving winner -- they have all made an enormous contribution to society and made a difference to millions of lives," said BMJ Editor Fiona Godlee.

Voting will close on Jan. 14 and the winner will be announced on Jan. 18.

The full shortlist includes:

  • Anesthesia
  • Antibiotics
  • Chlorpromazine to treat mental illness
  • Computers
  • DNA structure
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Germ theory
  • Imaging
  • Immunology
  • Oral rehydration therapy
  • The pill
  • Risks of smoking
  • Sanitation
  • Tissue culture
  • Vaccines

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