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As a junior in England in 1985 there was a senior surgeon
who was approaching retirement. I was told that, when a surgical house
officer, she had worked for a boss with open pulmonary TB. I gather that
the previous four house officers had succumbed to the bacillus and she
demonstrated her toughness by surviving. This must have occurred in the
early 1950s, well after Buchan wrote sick heart river.
The attitude demonstrated by this non-fictional event needs some
analysing, but the patriarchal role of the senior consultant perhaps meant
that he could carry on infecting his juniors without a thought for the
In this situation patients must have contracted TB from the same source.
One hopes times have changed.