Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Life imitates literature

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 20 September 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5911
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Doctors have been murderers in literature, as in life. Among the former is Dr Charles Alavoine in Georges Simenon’s Letter to My Judge, published in 1947. The book is in the form of a letter addressed by Alavoine to his juge d’instruction, explaining why he strangled his lover. There is a short appendix, in the form of a newspaper report describing how, because of his good behaviour in prison and his professional qualifications, Dr Alavoine was given duties in the prison hospital. This allowed him access to the poisons cupboard, and he then took a fatal dose of its contents.

Dr Alavoine was not a leading light of our profession. Once qualified, he rarely looked at a medical journal, though he …

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