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Falling in love again: an artsy doc’s guide to surviving the recession

7 Mar, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin


This Christmas I received a very special present from my husband. After 23 years I guess he knows a thing or two about how to get me excited and he knows just the man to do it.  He also knew, as we must all surely know by now, that this was an austerity Christmas. A time to reuse, recyle and act with restraint. And so, armed with a limited budget and a detailed knowledge of his artsy doc wife’s weaknesses, he found himself in one of London’s second hand bookstores. more…

Association of Medical Humanities

6 Mar, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

So where do you go, bedsides straight to our very own journal, website and blog, if you’re a clinician, educator or academic in the UK and Ireland with an interest, or even just a fledgling curiosity, about medical humanities?

To the Association of Medical Humanities of course. Following this link to the Association’s website to find out more. And why not join up? The more the merrier!

Wanted: 90 year old patient to look after ailing doctor

28 Feb, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

I’ve been ill. For two whole days. Horribly, gut wrenchingly, toilet bowl huggingly, head piercingly ill. For two whole days. So now I know what my patient felt like, right? The one who ‘gave’ this to me a few days ago when I visited her at home. The one who, in her 90th year, whilst clearly overwhelmed by the practical challenges raised by the physical symptoms I am now so intimately acquainted with, didn’t want to fuss, to be a bother, to waste anyone’s time. more…

Book review: The Spare Room by Helen Garner

27 Feb, 09 | by Giskin Day


Helen Garner’s The Spare Room (published by Canongate) is an exploration of the emotional and practical turmoil engendered by caring for someone who is grasping at straws to evade the terminal truth of their illness.


The narrative probes a friendship between two feisty women when it is taken to new levels of intensity by a clash in ideology. Helen (who deliberately shares the author’s name) starts off with noble intentions. She prepares her spare room with due consideration for longstanding-friend Nicola’s feng shui inclinations, hoping to strike just the right balance between practicality and homeliness. Nicola, riven with cancer, is coming to Sydney to spend a small fortune on alternative therapy at the Theodore Institute. Predictably, the Institute proves fantastically adept at sales talk but medically deeply dubious. Nicola emerges from intravenous Vitamin C treatment and ozone cupping weakened and wracked with excruciating pain, but she holds out against morphine until she – and, more particularly, Helen – can bear it no longer. Nicola is coaxed into reengaging with orthodox medicine by her outraged and exhausted friend. more…

Manners maketh the doctor

24 Jan, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

The other day I made a call to our local hospital to ask a colleague to see a patient of mine as a matter of urgency. I asked the switchboard operator to page the relevant on-call registrar who duly appeared on the other end of the line. Using “hello?” as his tense, inpatient, opening gambit wasn’t a good start. more…

When is dementia not dementia: a lesson in listening

14 Jan, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

In the last few weeks, working as a GP, it seems like I’ve seen more pneumonia and bronchitis than at any time in the last 20 years. As a practice, we’ve also had a number of our elderly patients admitted as emergencies, sometimes after seeing one of us and sometimes when they’ve sought hospital care directly. On several occasions they were found collapsed or semi-conscious at home. Some, sadly, passed away whilst others spent several weeks recuperating in and out of hospital. more…

Sex, suicide and surgical blues: getting under the skin of Grey’s Anatomy

8 Jan, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

blog post photo

I’d always hoped that one day I’d finally get to grips with the contents of Gray’s Anatomy. Perhaps then I’d be able to write the sort of blog my friend Babette- a sport’s physician- would like me to write. To quote Babette, she’d like me to write something “simple, like sports, or the athlete’s heart, or sudden cardiac death, something simple.” So for you, Babette, here’s hoping that a heart stopping picture of Patrick Dempsey and some thoughts on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy will hit the mark. more…

Human Identity in the Age of Bio-science: two gems from Radio 4

30 Dec, 08 | by Deborah Kirklin

As civilians in both Gaza and Israel spend another day living and dying in fear and surrounded by hate, Ali Abbas, a young man who as a child lost 16 members of his family and both his arms in the Iraq conflict,  tells reporter Hugh Sykes his story. Ali’s story reminds us of the human beings who make up the statistics. His dignity, fortitude, and good-humoured resilience are both humbling and hopeful.

Meanwhile, on Start the Week, Andrew Marr and guests explore human identity in the age of bio-science. A perfect medical humanities end to the year. Follow this link and click on ‘this week’s programme’ to listen in.

Henderson’s Equation: embracing science, facilitating human flourishing

29 Dec, 08 | by Deborah Kirklin

I’m fond of referring, in talks and in discussions about medical professionalism, to the midnight meal. It’s a metaphor that I borrow from Dr Jerome Lowenstein, a friend and colleague who wrote an essay of the same name. In that essay he recalls a time when the medical team would meet in the hospital restaurant, in the middle of the night, to deal with the emotional leftovers of the day. With shift working, and an increasingly busy and technological approach to medicine, there is all too often neither time nor space for a midnight meal. He suggests that medical humanities might offer an alternative way, create an alternative space, to pick over the remains of the day and so be ready to face another day.

The essay is simply and beautifully written, and so I was pleased to be given a copy of Dr Lowenstein’s first novel, Henderson’s Equation, to read. Pleased but also a little daunted, because I have to admit that physiology was never my strong point. more…

House MD: just what the doctor ordered

20 Dec, 08 | by Deborah Kirklin

Back in the mid-80s when, as a junior doctor, I went to work in the US, I caused a mini-panic amongst the nurses by refusing, at least for a short while, to sign “MD” after my orders. An order in this context being a written order to the nurses to do the myriad of small and big things that comprising the nurse-delivered medical care of a patient. The reason for my reluctance to sign myself MD was that, in England, an MD was a person who had undertaken clinical research, written a thesis, and had subsequently been awarded a medical doctorate. By contrast, MD written after a person’s name in the US simply means that that the person is medically qualified. more…

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