By Iain Bamforth
During this wide-reaching abecedarium, medical professional and poet Iain Bamforth dissects the clash of values embodied in what we name medicinenever solely a technology and now not rather the artwork it was. Bamforth brings to endure his adventure of medication from all over the world, from the hightech American health facility of Paris to group future health centres of Papua, together with his attractive curiosity within the stranger manifestations of scientific issues on the subject of paintings, literature and tradition. Drawing at the lives and concepts of a few of Europe’s most
celebrated writers, from Auden to Zola with stop-offs on the likes of Darwin, Kafka, Orwell, Proustand Weil alongside the way in which, Bamforth deals insightful and witty diagnoses of the tradition of medication within the smooth age.
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Extra resources for A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine
Blackboard, anatomical chart and reflecting laryngoscope are used to devastating effect in his surgery. Patients are stripped of their defences, beginning with the flimsy mantle of insouciance which has hitherto protected them from worrying about their health. ’ If it’s an itch the poor man thinks he has, it must be a mortal one. The Lady in Violet, a certain ‘dame Pons, née demoiselle Lempoumas’, gets the shock treatment: her insomnia, which Dr Parpalaid had never taken seriously—he used to tell her ‘to read three pages of the civil code every evening’—may now be the result of a ‘pipestem deformity’ of the intracerebral circulation or perhaps even a ‘sustained neuralgiform crisis of the substantia nigra’.
Order requires domination, and domination requires a lie or two. So he gives their lives a medical meaning. That is: he extends the bounds of the biological, of whose oracles he is the interpreter, so as to make illness not just a bodily phenomenon but an organising principle for the effective administration of society itself: it is, for its adepts, a higher truth. His argument is life, for that is what a doctor defends. His tools are ideals, seduction, fright and—if necessary—the threat of violence.
When I stood here for the first time, the day after my arrival, I wasn’t too proud: I realised my presence didn’t count for much. This vast expanse 47 of France had the temerity to spurn me and my coevals. But now I’m as much at ease here as an organist sitting down to play his instrument. In two hundred and fifty of these houses—not all of which are apparent because of the distance and the greenery—there are two hundred and fifty bedrooms where someone’s confessing the power of medicine, two hundred and fifty beds where a recumbent body attests that life has a purpose, and—thanks to me—a medical purpose.
A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine by Iain Bamforth