A Doctor's Dictionary: Writings on Culture and Medicine by Iain Bamforth

By Iain Bamforth

In this pithy abecedarium, health practitioner and poet Iain Bamforth takes an in depth examine the clash of values embodied in what we name medicine—never totally a technology and not relatively the paintings it was. Bamforth brings his vast adventure of medication world wide, from the high-tech American health center of Paris to the group healthiness facilities of Papua, along with his attractive curiosity within the stranger manifestations of scientific concerns relating to paintings, literature, and culture—such because the mysterious “Stendhal’s syndrome,” which brought on 106 travelers in Florence to be hospitalized as a result of an overload of chic Renaissance art.

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Nearly all university research has some involvement 62 with the industry, which may also be funding some patient support groups (Eli Lilly funds the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in the USA, for instance). Experts often rotate between sectors, so that a government adviser may previously have worked for the private sector, or directly for the industry itself. As Laurence Kirmayer says in his article on the quite different cultural experience with Prozac in Japan, ‘professional autonomy rides the tail of marketing’.

But who’s talking sham? Knock gives everyone the fever. 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).

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. At night the view is even more beautiful, for then their lights shine out. And almost all these lights are mine. Non-patients sleep in the outer dark. They cease to exist. But patients leave on their night-lights or their lamps.

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