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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Father Damien: An Open Letter to the Reverend Dr Hyde of Honolulu

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 13 July 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4417
  1. Barry Newport, sessional general practitioner
  1. barry.newport{at}

In 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson made a seven day visit to a leper colony on the small Hawaiian island of Molokai. It was a harrowing and deeply moving experience. Stevenson interviewed many people about a Belgian Catholic priest known as Father Damien, who spent the last 16 years of his life among the lepers, improving their conditions by helping to build cottages and a chapel, as well as ministering to their spiritual and medical needs. Eventually Father Damien contracted leprosy himself, dying at the age of 49, one month before Stevenson’s …

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