Doctors go back to basics

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 22 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:429
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    Of what use is literature, especially to doctors? This is a question that has long troubled me and would continue to do so even were my medical and literary accomplishments far greater than they are. As another literary doctor, Somerset Maugham, once put it, by the standards of what eternity is it better to have read a thousand books than to have ploughed a thousand furrows?

    This, however, is jumping the gun a little, for just as the existentialists say that existence precedes essence (or is it the other way round; I can never quite remember), so literacy precedes literature, at least now that the age of the epic poem is definitively in the past. …

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