Roundtable: How Old Should a Doctor Be?

On January 6, 2018, Dr Haider Javed Warraich published an op-ed in the New York Times titled “For Doctors, Age May Be More Than a Number.”  In this responsive roundtable, writers Anna Fenton-Hathaway (English literature), Jordan Babando (sociology), and Benjamin Gagnon Chainey (French literature) consider the possibilities and provocations of thinking about how a doctor’s…

Review of Lindsey Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

Livia Arndal Woods Lindsey Fitzharris’s 2017 The Butchering Art is a compelling medical biography of Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgical theory and practice. Lister’s work, building on the germ-theories of Louis Pasteur, “Transform[ed] the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine” from a chaotic and deadly battle against seemingly inevitable infections to a more systematic and…

Two Babies, Two Fathers, One Pregnancy: Superfetation in Myth and Medicine

According to early modern gynecological manuals, superfetation is “a repeated conception”—a rare but real medical phenomenon when a woman who is already pregnant becomes pregnant again. The anonymous author of The English Midwife Enlarged (1682) responds to those who dispute superfetation, explaining that when a woman is “animated with an earnest desire of Copulation,” the “overheated”…

Laughing at Death: Gallows Humor and the Physician’s Psyche

James Belarde “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” -George Bernard Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma If you’re reading this article, you’re going to die. That’s not to say, hopefully, that this piece is so bad it will kill you. Nor is…

Oral History and the Physician-Patient Relationship

John A. Carranza  There has been much criticism about the time that physicians spend with patients in an average visit. Physicians simply do not have enough time to fully interact with their patients. Couple this with the rising demand for doctors to enter patient information and complaints into databases, and the patient suffers. While this…

The Myth of Miscarriage: An Early Modern Legacy

If a medical school student or resident looked up “miscarriage” in the index of Blueprints Obstetrics & Gynecology (2013), they would be directed to “spontaneous abortion.” Denoting a pregnancy that ends before 20 weeks, spontaneous abortion occurs in 15% to 25% of all pregnancies, and this “number may be even higher because losses that occur…

The Uncertainty of Medicine and Improv Comedy

  James Belarde “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.” -William Osler The Big Sick, a 2017 romantic comedy written by husband-and-wife team Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, tells the true story of a mysterious illness that strikes Emily early in their relationship. The doctors initially overwhelm her family with medical…

Hypochondria and the Struggle for Control

Sneha Mantri One of the best-known literary depictions of hypochondria is Molière’s medical play, Le Malade imaginaire, which is occupied with the struggle for power between Argan, the titular “invalid,” and those who surround him. One reading of Argan focuses on his victimhood, arguing that the character believes so completely in his own illness that…