The real irony of The DoctorBMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c482 (Published 08 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c482
All rapid responses
I take issue with Dr Moore's view of one of the iconic paintings in
the Tate Gallery. I used to have a reproduction on my consulting room
I do concede some of her observations in the first paragraph of her
letter but the 19th century G.Ps were not as harsh as she would suggest.
All artists 'Contrive' their subjects to some extent but it is not a
fictionalised image. Sir Luke Fildes came from a medical family and would
have encountered such situations. I myself have visited patients in
cottages like this- elderly folk who chose to live in a complete time
warp! Other older patients, long deceased, confirmed that it was the
custom to place a sick child on two chairs for the momentous visit. In
this picture it was a last minute cry for help, the doctor could do
nothing and the child is dying. In all probability he would have waived a
fee and would easily make it up by adjusting fees to his 'Rapidly
expanding' middle and upper class patients. My pre-N.H.S. colleagues
continued that practice.
I do not regard it as a deception. It is easy to sneer at Victorian
sentimentality but our predecessors were not without compassion and the
picture struck a chord in an age that we cannot appreciate. We do not have
to cope with the pain of high infant mortality. Let us pay some tribute to
the G.Ps of that time- at least they were on duty 24 hours a day!
Dr. J. Kenneth Roberts. Trearddur Bay, Isle of Anglesey.
Long retired, old fashioned rural GP
Competing interests: No competing interests