Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Familiarity breeds contempt

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 15 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2091
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    In his essay How the Poor Die, published in 1946, George Orwell describes his admission to a hospital in Paris, which he coyly calls Hôpital X, in 1929, when he had pneumonia. He is treated unceremoniously, with cupping and a mustard plaster; the people applying these useless treatments do not bother with such refinements as informed consent—or indeed consent of any kind. The patients are lucky to get what they are given.

    Orwell relates how the doctors and medical students exchange hardly a word with the patients and certainly do not acknowledge their common humanity. The students tremble with excitement as …

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