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The Iron Lung: Halfway Technology or Necessary Step?

James H. Maxwell
The Milbank Quarterly
Vol. 64, No. 1 (1986), pp. 3-29
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Milbank Memorial Fund
DOI: 10.2307/3350003
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3350003
Page Count: 27
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The Iron Lung: Halfway Technology or Necessary Step?
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Abstract

The iron lung is often used to epitomize the costly halfway technologies of modern-day medicine that fail to cure and only prolong a seriously compromised existence. Historical evidence indicates that the iron lung was not a costly instrument of last resort; instead, it was a lifesaving device that played a critical role in the evolution of modern respirators and respiratory care. Contrary to the prevailing views of the biomedical research community, the creation of new devices and instruments is often as important a source of technical change in medicine as are advances in the biological sciences.

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