In This Review

The Mad Cow Crisis: Health Care and the Public Good
The Mad Cow Crisis: Health Care and the Public Good
Edited by Scott C. Ratzan
New York University Press, 1998, 247 pp.

Bovine spongiform ecephalopathy sounds considerably more precise than "mad cow disease," the affliction that in 1996 led to the extermination of vast herds of cattle, international acrimony in Europe, the expenditure of some $10 billion, and no verifiable direct human deaths. This compact volume, assembled by the editor of the Journal of Health Communication, incorporates a number of scientific, sociological, and political perspectives. As is always the case, reliance on a dozen authors leaves some holes in the narrative and analysis, and much of the writing has an unnecessarily scholastic quality, but the variety of views adduced here makes up for these deficiencies. A useful corrective to those who think that, at the end of the twentieth century, governments make public health decisions, and educated populaces assess risks, on the basis of cool scientific analysis.