Time Essay: Freedom of Choice and Apricot Pits

In one of his chronic outbursts against doctors, Mark Twain once complained that the "insane," monopolistic American medical system was "an infamous thing, a crime against a free man's right to choose his own assassin." Twain's fulmination is now being echoed by contemporary opponents of the medical establishment. Championing Laetrile, their painless apricot-pit panacea, they are insisting that Americans should be allowed a "freedom of choice" to pick their own cancer therapy.

It is a clever—indeed beguiling—battle cry. It again evokes nostalgic memories of a simpler, more ruggedly individualistic and freer America, where...

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