Views & Reviews

“Would you like to see the wound?”

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 30 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1064
  1. Gillian Stowell, GP principal, Exeter
  1. gillstowell{at}

    Patients have often asked me as a general practitioner whether I’d like to see their wound. I usually decline, believing that there is little need to see wounds unless they cause problems. But have I been missing the point?

    Until January this year I had no visible scars—a pristine body with nothing added or taken away. I have always had an aversion to body piercings, tattoos, and cosmetic surgery and struggle to comprehend how some people seem to welcome surgical invasion of their bodies.

    On learning I would need major abdominal surgery and a temporary stoma to treat bowel cancer I was horrified by many things, not least of them the certainty of huge scars. I became acutely aware of how my identity was embodied by a trim figure, a flat belly (even after three pregnancies), and freedom to wear whatever I liked. My passions in life relied on a healthy physique. I did not want to surrender this body to the knife.

    There were of course more serious fears: premature …

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