Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Dictators and their doctors

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2700 (Published 17 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2700
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

There is something fascinating about the memoirs of the servants or confidants of great dictators. They allow us to see raw power close up, and to thrill to its horror. Personally, I can never resist a book with the title I Was X’s Y, where X was a dictator and Y was his maid, secretary, or chauffeur.

Doctors have written memoirs of dictators. Among the most famous, or infamous, are those of Dr Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao. When they were published there was a controversy as to how genuine they were, with both translator and publisher accused of spicing them up to attract sales. The author himself was accused of claiming …

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