Coming Out of the Politico-Medical Closet

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey // One day, as he was assaulted by journalists in a scrum outside Québec’s legislative assembly, the now-former health minister, Gaétan Barrette, became impatient. Harassed with specific and sensitive questions on healthcare accessibility for patients, he exclaimed: “We’re not here to do literature!” With this statement, lightly expressed but heavy with meaning, the…

In the Silent Land of Pain

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey // “All I ask is not to have to change cell, not to have to descend into an in pace, down there where everything’s black, and thought no longer exists.”[1] These words, at once suffering and troubling, are these of the French writer Alphonse Daudet, who died of syphilis in 1897. La…

AIDS and the (Social) Experience of Disability

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey // Hervé Guibert was a prolific French writer who died from AIDS in 1991. Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of the magazine Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him locked in his body.  With the help of his speech therapist, Guibert wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly entirely by blinking one eye….

Doctor Metempsychotic Gloss

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey // « What was Dr. Heraclius Gloss doing in the Old Pigeons’ Alley? What he was doing there, good Lord!… He was looking there for philosophical truth –  and here is how».[1] Doctor Heraclius Gloss, Guy de Maupassant’s last short story, published posthumously in 1921, is in fact one of his first…

The People of Act Up Paris against Patient Hervé Guibert

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey   ‘I tell myself that this book’s raison d’être lies only along this borderline of uncertainty, so familiar to all sick people everywhere.’[1] Hervé Guibert – To the friend who did not save my life   Hervé Guibert’s first “AIDS writings” – namely his works To the friend who did not save…

The (Off)Springs of Literature and Experimental Medicine

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey “And from this they drew the conclusion that physiology is – as a well-worn phrase expresses it – the romance of medicine[1].” Bouvard and Pécuchet Gustave Flaubert             When the second half of the 19th century witnessed a multiplication of medical and scientific triumphs – think of vaccines, radiology, echocardiography, and the…

Learning not to heal

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey Reminiscence of Georges Canguilhem: A review of l’Homme sans fièvre, by Claire Marin   Perhaps is there a need to think the future of medicine in a new horizon, not so much that of healing, but that of diminishing human suffering [1].   Sometimes, Western medicine exacerbates suffering as it strives to heal….

The Suffering Caregiver

  Benjamin Gagnon Chainey ‘Is the experience of pain preferable to the anihilation of experience?[1]’ Hervé Guibert, Le mausolée des amants The question posed by Hervé Guibert, a French writer who died in 1991, while he was HIV-positive at the apex of the Western AIDS epidemic, resounds from the darkest areas of his terminal phase….