Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review

Written on the body

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 10 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6122
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. iona.heath22{at}

Doctors must pay serious attention to the ways in which biography and biology interact, writes Iona Heath, in a review of an important new book

Human beings do terrible things to one another, causing deep wounds that leave scars that may be anatomical but that can also be physiological, directly affecting the functioning of the body. The significance of these scars is only now beginning to be recognised by medical science, and this book has a major contribution to make to this process. Anna Luise Kirkengen is a Norwegian general practitioner and academic whom I have known and respected for several years. Her original research work has included in-depth interviews with survivors of sexual abuse, and she uses these often harrowing stories to underpin this important book.

The first of these stories concerns a girl of 14 who developed sudden pain and numbness in the left side of her body. She was seen by a neurologist who could find no cause for her symptoms and who referred her to a child psychiatrist. Eventually the girl revealed that she had been raped by a loved and trusted uncle …

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