By Iain Bamforth
During this wide-reaching abecedarium, physician and poet Iain Bamforth dissects the clash of values embodied in what we name medicinenever solely a technology and now not particularly the paintings it was once. Bamforth brings to undergo his adventure of drugs from around the globe, from the hightech American clinic of Paris to neighborhood well-being centres of Papua, together with his enticing curiosity within the stranger manifestations of scientific concerns relating to paintings, literature and tradition. Drawing at the lives and ideas 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 drugs within the sleek age.
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Extra resources for A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine
Then he inoculates his patients with the one idea: self-preservation, at any cost. We have to go back to the beginnings of Enlightenment and the twilight of the traditional world from which doctors derive their sacerdotal aura to find out why. The first realisation that the equation ‘knowledge is power’—Knock’s recipe—could turn in on itself, through the force of imagination, is to be found in the work of one of the wittiest and most clear57 sighted philosophers of the period, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799).
Twenty years ago, having to dissect a body twiceweekly over nine months in the cold hall of Glasgow University’s anatomy department was, as far as I was concerned, a chore; it seemed odd that a sense of medicine’s embodied realism was acquired by destroying the evidence. Yet the cadaver was, in a sense, our first patient. The six of us around the table were dimly aware of the ambivalence of what we were 30 doing: the body in front of us was no longer a human subject, but neither was it wholly in the realm of the senseless (the same cleavage attends the removal of organs from cadavers for transplantation: the sense of ‘material’ being cannibalised sits uncomfortably with the prospect of the ‘harvested’ organs sitting inside a another person).
Hagens has to give it form by plastinating and then modelling it before hardening, a procedure ethically comparable to the partial intrusion on autonomy that occurs when a plastic surgeon reconstructs a face or body. It is a peculiar form of playing to the gallery to insinuate, as Hagens does, that visitors to the exhibition can, in a day’s viewing, locate the meaningful turnings of the very tradition which has made it possible to strip a body: a medical education is a long apprenticeship in which the discipline required to be a physician is itself re-appropriated, precept by precept.
A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture & Medicine by Iain Bamforth