Friday, December 23, 2005

Suburban Shaman at the British Museum

Cecil Helman, award-winning medical anthropologist, will be giving a talk on narratives in medicine, and reading from his book Suburban Shaman: Tales from Medicine's Frontline at the British Museum (Moser Room) on Thursday 19th January 2006 from 4.30 - 6pm. The talk is part of the UCL/British Museum lecture series on 'Making Things Better'. Admission is free. His book was published in South Africa a while ago (it comes out in Britain next month), and I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a sort of gentler version of Kaplan's The Dressing Station. The book is beautifully written and parts of it stay with you long after you've finished it.

Next Purple Coat Club meeting

Our next get-together is on Thursday 5 January in room 311, Mech. Eng. at Imperial College (South Kensington campus), starting 7.30 pm. We'll be watching and discussing 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. Please e-mail me if you don't have swipe-card access to the building, so that I can give you my mobile phone number so that you don't get stranded outside in the cold! As usual, everyone is welcome!

The body revisited at the ICA

During January, the Institute for Contemporary Art is hosting a series of talks called 'The Body Diminished'. It explores ideas about 'body politics'. Talks take place at the ICA, which is on the Mall in London (combine it with a walk in the beautiful St James's Park), on 11, 16 and 17 January. More information here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

No moans about the Hypochondriac

On Monday night I went to see The Hypochondriac, a farce written by Moliere written in the 17th century. It was excellent. Farce can be a bit dodgy, but I reckon they got it just right. There is plenty of potty humour but fine performances and a degree of restraint in the interpretation meant that it never degenerated into slapstick. The play pokes fun at the medical profession. Argan (the hypochondriac) is desperate for his daughter Angelique to marry a doctor so that he can receive free treatment. She has fallen in love with someone else. Throw into the mix a scheming servant, a slightly psychotic medical student, a wife on the make, and a troupe of dancing doctors, and you have all the ingredients for a very entertaining evening.

Henry Goodman as the lead is wonderful. Kris Marshall (the son, Nick, from the TV series My Family) plays the romantic suitor of Angelique (Carey Mulligan fresh from her performance as Ada Clare in Bleak House). The Almeida in Islngton is a gorgeous theatre. Students can get £10 seats, and you'll be at no visual disadvantage owing to the intimacy of the theatre. It's on until 17 January. Not to be missed.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Should surgery be seen to be done?

Oh my goodness. Check out this initiative to screen webcasts of surgery in a bid to attract patients. It's the 'live' bit that makes me feel queasy. If it were a straightforward advertisement it would be slightly less objectionable, but by making it 'live' it plays on the edginess of the potential for procedures to go wrong. The pressure of having to 'perform' on the part of the surgeons might compromise patient care if there are unexpected complications. The theatre (more aptly named than ever) will sport advertising logos. Conflict of interest anyone?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


The 'Journal of Humane Medicine and Medical Humanities', Cell2Soul, has just released its winter issue. It's open access. The quality is decidedly mixed in my opinion, but worth taking a look at, particularly a report on 'biliotherapy': prescribing books instead of pills. Also in this issue, some of the 'personal canons' (lists of 10 books that someone has found 'resonating') are quite revealing. And there is a selection of poetry. I liked this one.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Constant Gardener

I saw this incredible film last Sunday, based on the novel by John Le Carre, directed by Fernando Meirelles (director of City of God), screenplay by Jeffrey Caine and starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weiss.

The broader theme of the film tackles the corruption surrounding drug company research, and more specifically the advantage-taking regarding health issues in Africa, especially concerning AIDS and TB.

Weiss plays the wife of a British diplomat who discovers some alarming evidence surrounding drug trials in Kenya. Her activism results in her brutal killing and her findings begin to unravel when her husband, played by Fiennes, investigates following her death.

This is a deeply sad film that encapsulates an extremely worrying issue. The acting is superb, with the two main characters bringing to life a beautiful relationship in truly convincing and natural way.

The film is thrilling and intense, but I am reluctant to give too much away in terms of the plot. Do go and see it on the big screen; the images of the south of Sudan and Kenya are breathtaking. An important film.

ONE life

Dont miss BBC1's ONE life this Tuesday at 10:35pm. It features a doctor with Kallman's Syndrome (Neurones that carry GnRH in the brain fail to develop, so the pituitary gland is not stimulated to produce LH and FSH. These normally stimulate the gonads to produce sex hormones, meaning that sufferers are permantently pre-pubertal. They also have no sense of smell.) and his subsequent treatment, which results in him going through puberty in six months - at the age of 33! Review to follow.