Daniel Moerman presents an innovative and enlightening discussion of human reaction to the meaning of medical treatment. Traditionally, the effectiveness of medical treatments is attributed to specific elements, such as drugs or surgical procedures, but many things happen in medicine which simply cannot be accounted for in this way. The same drug can work differently when presented in different colours; drugs with widely advertised names can work better than the same drug without the name; inert drugs (placebos, dummies) often have dramatic effects on people (the ‘placebo effect’); and effects can vary hugely among different European countries where the ‘same’ medical condition is understood differently, or has different meanings. This is true for surgery as well as for internal medicine. This lively 2002 book reviews and analyses these matters in lucid, straightforward prose, guiding the reader through a very complex body of literature, leaving nothing unexplained but avoiding any over-simplification.